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Relegation battle could go to the wire with three games remaining

Bourne fell short in their bid to topple Midlands 3 East (South) leaders Northampton Casuals after a 27-3 away reversal at the weekend.

Their recent form has seen them beat a number of sides in the top half of the league and, with a strong side available, they travelled with confidence.

The opening exchanges suggested Bourne were right to fancy their chances and both sides enjoyed an equal share of possession and territory.

But it was the home side that struck first. Forcing pressure on the Bourne defence, Casuals were eventually awarded a penalty which they converted to open the scoring.

And, a short while later, Casuals extended their lead with the first try of the day.

Sam Evison got his side on the scoreboard. (8066327)
Sam Evison got his side on the scoreboard. (8066327)

Enjoying more possession the hosts made use of their big pitch, running the ball from one side to the other to stretch the Bourne defence before then kicking to the corner.

Despite winning the resulting line-out, Bourne soon lost possession and Casuals were quick to take advantage with a number of powerful carries from their pack.

Although Bourne coped initially, they were caught off-guard when Casuals attacked the blind-side and they couldn't do enough to stop them crossing in the corner.

Bourne's efforts weren't derailed by Casuals extending their lead though and the visitors made good yards from the restart.

Having worked their way into the Casuals 22, Bourne's pressure looked to have paid off when captain Tom Dixon forged his way through a breakdown to get what appeared to be his side's first try.

However, Dixon's movement was judged to have been made possible with the aid of a blocker and the try was disallowed.

Bourne were, however, rewarded with a penalty for an earlier Casuals infringement and scrum-half Sam Evison duly got his side on the scoreboard.

The game was evenly poised for much of the first half but Casuals extended their lead on the half-hour mark.

Player-coach Dave Maudsley made a good break from inside his own 22 but lost possession of the ball as he was tackled in the process of trying to offload.

The Casuals defence reacted quickly and kicked the ball downfield before winning the chase to the line to get their second try.

Bourne's scrummaging was good and even with the loss of Ian Knight from the front row in the first ten minutes didn't appear to be an issue.

In open play locks Sam Harby and Andrew Brown continued a good run of form and they were well supported by a Bourne pack that has enjoyed a solid season.

With Bourne gaining momentum they were unfortunate not to get more points as the first half came to an end with a Casuals penalty taking their lead to 13-3.

Bourne started the second half well, creating a number of attacking opportunities, but they failed to execute their chances.

Tom Dixon had an early try disallowed. (8066329)
Tom Dixon had an early try disallowed. (8066329)

The Bourne centres, Sam Thornburn and man of the match Adam McHugh, linked well with wing Josh Lynch and full-back Jack Berry but each time they looked to have created an opportunity Casuals disrupted their moves.

Casuals began to dominate possession and, with talented players throughout their side, they strung together a number of attacking phases.

Although Bourne's defence was stretched they managed to do just enough time and time again to limit Casuals' progress but, as the game entered the final quarter, the hosts finally added another try.

Having done well to restrict Casuals for so long Bourne were disappointed that they allowed their opponents to extend their lead so easily.

The Casuals scrum-half, arguably the best player on the day, made good yards through the Bourne defence and, despite being forced one way and then another, somehow managed to avoid being out down.

Having beaten almost the entire Bourne defence, the Casuals scrum-half had created a number of gaps and, although he was eventually brought to a stop, he was well positioned to give a simple offload to a support runner who crossed under the sticks.

Ten minutes later another Casuals attack brought the Bourne defence into disarray once again and a number of missed tackles allowed them to add another try and seal the win.

Bourne now have three games left to ensure they stay in Midlands Three East (South) having been promoted last season.

While they remain eighth after their loss at the weekend they are conscious that two of the sides below them won at the weekend and the relegation battle is going to be tight.

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