Strong squad produces dominant display
Bourne made a winning start to their long-awaited Midlands Three East (South) campaign after a 26-13 away success at last season’s promotion counterparts St Neots on Saturday.
They travelled with a strong squad looking to set the tone for what will undoubtedly be a long and tough season and dominated for the majority of the game.
As they did last year St Neots fielded a large pack, but Bourne were careful not to fall into the same trap they did at the end of last season.
And, rather than trying to match their opponent's physicality, they stuck to their own strengths of utilising a lightweight but dynamic set of forwards.
Moving the ball about in close quarters the Bourne pack made early inroads which in turn set a decent platform for the backline.
The early signs were that Bourne had the beating of their hosts out wide and, with the better set of backs being supported by the fitter forwards, the game seemed there for the taking.
Despite creating several early opportunities Bourne failed to convert pressure into points.
Too often the final decision was the wrong one and the backline missed a number of opportunities to cross the try line.
But, among the pressure, there were a number of penalties and scrum-half Sam Evison was once again on form slotting three difficult kicks to give his side a head start.
At just 9-0 in front at half-time though Bourne were disappointed not to have more to show for their efforts having spent the entire first 40 minutes in the St Neots half.
The visitors made a couple of changes at half-time and braced themselves for a second 40 minutes anticipating a resurgence from their opposition.
While St Neots started the second half in a similar fashion to their first, they were in fact allowed back into the game due mostly to Bourne stepping off the pedal.
Bourne's back row which had done so much in the first half became guilty of ill-discipline and the lack of focus seemed to spread throughout the side.
St Neots seemed to sense their chance was coming and grew into the game. Taking their opportunities after a string of penalties they quickly got six points of their own. When a third penalty struck the uprights Bourne were relieved to still be in front.
This let-off seemed to refocus the Bourne side who immediately tightened their discipline and started to once again dominate the game with simple structure and an ability to stretch the St Neots defence with relative ease.
Sam Harby's first appearance of the season was a good one as he carried well in the second row and hooker Harry Thornburn was dynamic in the loose.
Props Chris Greenwood and Jake Appleby helped ensure the set-piece was won which provided their team-mates with valuable possession.
As they had in the first half the forwards began to build the phases and once the ball reached the backs they then followed in support meaning Bourne often had greater numbers in attack.
This eventually proved too much for St Neots and Bourne skipper Tom Dixon, playing at number eight, assisted in his side's first try when he provided the link out wide and fed wing Callum Weston who was playing his first game for the club after several years away from the area.
Despite Weston dotting down on the touchline, Evison had no issue converting and Bourne had a decent 16-6 lead.
However, Bourne's temperament looked likely to fail them as it had at the start of the half when they unnecessarily turned over ball far too easily.
Between a number of poor breakdowns and some dubious kicking they gave St Neots possession, failing to see that they had been the much better side when they had the ball themselves.
St Neots certainly weren't giving up and buoyed by greater time on the ball it was them that crossed next, albeit a try awarded among much debate.
Defending their 22, Bourne seemed caught out in the midfield as the St Neots fly-half appeared to run behind one of his own men which hindered any efforts to tackle him.
Despite appeals for crossing the try was awarded and the extras added. At just 16-13 Bourne were in danger of a similar outcome to their visit to St Neots last year when they lost in the last minute.
But this Bourne side seems to be growing with every game and with 20 minutes left they finally seemed to find top gear.
In attack they kept the ball, shipping it one way then another against a tiring St Neots side and on the few occasions they were forced to defend they did so with a better line speed and convincing first up tackles.
It was actually defensive pressure that brought the next try when Bourne's line pressed so well they forced St Neots into a handling error and Dixon was first to react, collecting the ball before striding out over 20 metres to dot down and show his side were ready to close out the game. With an unusual error Evison missed the kick.
A short while later Bourne created the try of the game when almost everybody was involved in a number of phases that took them steadily closer to their hosts try line.
It was Dixon who once again proved instrumental.
Making the final drive towards the line, he was unable to finish himself but he had any number of men on hand to help and it was Harby that benefitted from his captain's assist.
Once again Evison was left with a kick from the furthest point of the field and unable to convert.
With just a couple of minutes to see out Bourne slipped up when they conceded a penalty, but St Neots missed touch allowing full-back Jack Berry to bring the game to an end by putting the ball out himself.
Bourne: Greenwood, Thornburn, Appleby, Harby, Cooke, Williams, Binns, Dixon, Evison, Castle, Lynch, Maudsley, Charlton, Weston, Berry, Moore, Smith, Holden.