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Bourne move 12 points clear of the relegation zone with five matches remaining

Bourne sent out another message to the rest of the Midlands 3 East (South) on Saturday with an excellent 20-24 away success at Dunstablians.

It was the fifth successive win for Dave Maudsley's men who are now 12 points clear of the relegation zone with five games remaining.

Although Bourne won the first encounter between the sides back in November, the two teams have had very different campaigns.

Dunstablians have spent the season at the top end of the league table in relative security in contrast to Bourne who started the New Year at the very bottom.

But, having hit form recently, Bourne have shifted towards the middle of the table and a string of five successive league victories has seen them move to eighth in the league with the very real possibility that relegation is no longer lingering over them.

Tom Dixon (7534770)
Tom Dixon (7534770)

Bourne's run of wins is undoubtedly linked to the increased availability of players.

For a number of reasons the side changed frequently during the first half of the season but things appear to have changed as the club has regularly been getting it's best side out since Christmas and with it they have certainly enjoyed some momentum.

Once again they took a full-strength side on their travels and they looked to have prepared well during the warm-up.

Having been guilty on a number of occasions throughout the season of starting slowly, skipper Tom Dixon gave a very clear message to his players just moments before kick-off - a similar start against such a strong side might well prove to be irretrievable.

Dixon's players looked to have heeded his words as they were quick to try and make their mark.

The opening exchanges were fairly even but Bourne certainly looked like a side capable of an upest.

Bourne's pressure was telling and they were awarded an early penalty. Just inside the hosts half and almost on the touchline it was a difficult kick and, although scrum-half Sam Evison looked to have done enough, his attempt rebounded off the crossbar.

Maintaining their pressure Bourne were awarded another penalty minutes later, this time an easier opportunity for Evison, but he was off target sending the ball wide.

Evison, reputed to be the most efficient kicker in the league, quickly returned to his normal standard with his third kick off the day as he converted a penalty to open the scoring.

Sam Evison (7534767)
Sam Evison (7534767)

And from the restart Bourne immediately looked to apply the pressure as they attacked the Dunstablians 22.

After a neat grubber from fly-half Maudsley caught the Dunstbalians defence off guard, the ball was gathered by centre Adam McHugh who was brought down just short of the try-line.

As the Bourne support piled forward a number of good carries weakened the Dunstablians defensive effort and it was eventually wing Josh Lynch who benefitted as he forced his way over for his side's first try of the day. Evison, having found his range, was on target with the conversion.

Dunstablians, sensing an upset, restarted the game with vigour and enjoyed better possession and with it they made their way into the Bourne half.

With a dynamic pack running some good angles, the home side started to grow into the game and began to tie the Bourne defence into the breakdowns.

Having sucked the Bourne pack narrow a number of times Dunstablians then tried to send the ball wide but the visiting backs scrambled well enough to bring each attack to an end.

Eventually though Dunstablians got some reward as they were awarded a penalty which they duly kicked, taking the score to 3-10.

And a short while later they added a try to their tally as a long period of pressure inside Bourne's twenty-two proved too much as the Dunstablians' forwards tried to impose their power on the game. With the kick missed the half finished with the visitors just two points ahead.

Both sides were keen to take control at the start of the second half but in very different fashions.

In attack Bourne's off-the-cuff creation was a stark contrast to Dunstablians' organised approach and solid defensive efforts from both sides which suggested the game would finish as tightly as the first half had ended.

It was Bourne's attacking flair that brought about the next points. Their ability to score team tries has become something of a trademark in recent weeks and once again they provided a fantastic example.

While on this occasion there were only a handful of players involved the linking of those players was sublime and undoubtedly reflects a side that know each other well.

Jack Berry (7534765)
Jack Berry (7534765)

Fielding a long kick down field full-back Jack Berry looked to be isolated by the oncoming defence until a powerful counter-ruck by centre Sam Thornburn ensured the ball came out on the Bourne side.

Wing Rob Bentley collected the ball and made a half break round the ruck finding back-row Adam Binns just as his run was brought to an end.

Binns shot through a gap and made good yards before he too was tackled to the floor but the move continued as hooker Harry Thornburn appeared in support and after a timely offload from Binns he outpaced the cover defence over the final 20 metres. With the conversion Evison extended the lead to 8-17.

At this point Bourne began to dominate the game as they took their game plan back to basics and made vital use of the their pack to soak up much of the pressure.

After patiently building a platform through the forwards the Bourne backs then tried to create something but they were restricted to half chances by an energetic Dunstablians defence.

Having finally looked to have done enough the Bourne backs threw the ball wide in the Dunstablians' 22 only for their move to break down as a hosts hand appeared to knock the ball on.

Controversially the knock-on wasn't given and play was allowed to continue - as the ball had been directed towards the Bourne half it was the Dunstablians back line that were in a better position as they moved forward and suddenly their frantic defence was in fact turned into an attack.

Completely out of sorts Bourne could do little to stop the Dunstablians attack making its way upfield and they were left frustrated as the home side crossed for a try. As the game went into the final quarter Bourne were now just 15-17 ahead.

The last 20 minutes became something of a sloppy affair. Bourne looked to be managing the game better with their basic approach but too often they pushed their luck and handed possession back to Dunstablians.

Dunstablians though struggled to find a way through the Bourne defence which was up to the task and too often the home attacking efforts ended with mistakes forced by the pressure they faced from the visiting players.

With just minutes left Bourne skipper Dixon looked to have sealed the victory when his quick thinking got the better of the Dunstblians pack.

From the middle of a ruck Dixon saw that Dunstablians had failed to defend the back of the breakdown and, grabbing the ball, he darted through untouched to score his side's third try. Evison was on target once again and at 15-24 Bourne appeared to have done enough.

There was still time for plenty of action though and this initially came through another controversial decision.

From a long Dunstablians kick Bourne gathered the ball just off their own try line but were quickly forced backwards.

As the ball wasn't grounded Bourne were entitled to play on and McHugh seemed to have done well as he managed to cross back over his try-line.

At this point though the ball seemed to be knocked on by Dunstablians and crossed back beyond the Bourne tryline.

With no choice this time but to ground it Bourne thought they would be restarting with a 22 drop out but instead the referee, feeling that it had been Bourne who had taken the ball back into their in-goal area, awarded Dunstablians an attacking scrum on the five metre line.

Under pressure it wasn't long before the Bourne defence was caught out and Dunstablians added another try.

With just minutes to go Bourne were four points clear but fearful that one mistake might cost them the game.

Mistakes by both teams in the dying minutes meant possession alternated a number of times but, with just seconds left, Bourne seemed to have clinched victory when they won a penalty in the Dunstablians 22.

Not sure what the best option was to see out the game with the least risk, Bourne chose to tap and go but immediately fumbled the ball, handing possession back to Dunstablians.

With no obvious advantage Dunstablians were awarded a scrum on their own five metre line as the last play of the game.

Fittingly it was the Bourne defence that finally brought the game to an end. Desperate to somehow conjure a try from their own end of the pitch Dunstablians carried hard but the visiting tackling was resolute and each carry was quickly repelled, to the extent where the final tackle of the game saw the hosts tackled off their own end of the pitch.

Lynch was the pick of the backs on the day but it was the Bourne pack that were once again influential and the man of the match award went to prop Jake Appleby who paid tribute to his side after the game.

He said: "It's brilliant to get another win under our belts.

"We were sloppy in the first half but Dunstablians are a good side and they made it hard for us.

"The pack put in another good shift. We'll be sore afterwardsw but it will have been well worth it."

Dave Maudsley (7534763)
Dave Maudsley (7534763)

Coach Dave Maudsley was full of praise for his side who host third-placed Leicester Forest at Milking Nook Drove on Saturday.

Maudsley said: "It was a great effort by the lads and they earned their success.

"Since Christmas we've been putting in decent performances and we're getting the results we deserve.

"We still haven't hit 100 per cent yet though and, with a couple of tough games coming up, we'll need to get as close as we can.

"We aren't safe yet. We need to keep doing what we're doing. Although we'll be hoping other results go our way we can only really concentrate our efforts on us and the way we play. The priority is to keep on winning."

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