RUGBY UNION: Bourne hit back in tough test
Bourne made another statement of intent with victory on Saturday.
Player-coach Dave Maudsley put them into an early lead - but they needed to come back from an 11-point deficit in the second half.
After enjoying some early possession, the Bourne forwards had tied a number of the opposition backs into a breakdown in the midfield and Maudsley was given the ball at first receiver with two of the Aylestone forwards in front of him.
Darting between them, he then cut an angle to the corner to avoid the cover defence and open the scoring.
Aylestone were next to enjoy some dominance which eventually led to a try of their own as some decent recycling by their pack allowed the backs some quick ball and they finished a well-worked try in the corner.
Bourne quickly realised the game was going to be far tougher than the opening minutes had suggested and started to prepare for a hard slog.
In a game almost entirely dominated by peculiar refereeing, neither side could build any momentum and despite real endeavour they couldn’t add to their first-half points.
Turning round at half-time, the conditions slightly favoured the home team but it was Bourne that made the early inroads.
Having worked their way to the right end of the pitch, the ball was worked down the backline before wing Josh Lynch showed a mixture of strength and guile to finish in the corner.
Kicker Sam Evison was once again unable to convert the extra points.
Aylestone were quick to show they weren’t just making up the numbers - in almost identical fashion to their first try, they crossed once again to level the score.
With Aylestone then being awarded a string of penalties, the pressure began to mount on Bourne.
Finding touch in the corner, Aylestone shipped the ball midfield from the lineout and some confusion in the Bourne midfield allowed the Aylestone centre to cross under the posts - taking the hosts a converted try ahead.
The penalties continued and Aylestone extended their lead with two kicks at goal and at 21-10, an upset seemed likely.
Restarting after the second penalty, Bourne eventually got a chance to play their own style of rugby and lifting the tempo to a level Aylestone couldn’t compete with it was their turn to benefit from multiple penalties.
Concious of the gap in scoreline, Bourne looked to run each of the penalties and skipper Tom Dixon was smart enough to find himself a free run in when his quick tap meant the Aylestone defence simply had to let him through untouched.
With Evison converting, Bourne appeared to be back in the game just four points behind.
Any glimmer of hope seemed to fade quickly when shortly after the restart Dixon was yellow-carded after several warnings about high tackles.
With the officiating hard to understand, the game lacked structure throughout and as it progressed both sides were visibly frustrated.
Aylestone couldn’t find any extra points in Dixon’s absence and back to full strength Bourne looked to rebuild.
More penalties hindered their progess, though, and after another warning Dixon made the decision to remove himself rather than risk the danger of being red-carded.
Although this was a smart move, Bourne were given a team warning and their misery continued when a few minutes later centre Sam Thornburn was yellow-carded under mystifying circumstances - the referee seemed to suggest that Thornburn had simply “rucked too hard”.
Some real resolve from Bourne kept the home side from scoring in Thornburn’s absence and he returned for the final 10 minutes.
It was these closing stages of the game when Bourne finally came to life and the manner in which they finished the game reflects the sort of side they have become.
Putting aside any frustration about the officiating and lifting their skill-set to a more clinical level, Bourne began to build some phases and it wasn’t long before their endeavour was rewarded.
With a good platform provided by the pack at the set-piece and the ability of the forwards to be involved in open play, Bourne were able to ship the ball freely and after a number of passages winger Rob Bentley showed his finishing skills as he dived over in the corner.
With the conversion going wide Bourne were once again in front albeit by the narrowest of margins.
Just a point in front, the game was clearly in the balance in the closing minutes and a mistake at the restart meant Bourne were immediately pinned to their own line.
Solid defence kept the Aylestone side at bay and when they eventually got their hands on the ball Bourne fought their way up the pitch.
On reaching the Aylestone half they quickly opened up the game with some effective carrying by the pack before the backs were once again given an opportunity - with the last play of the game Thornburn managed to draw the last defender before offloading to Lynch who crossed for his second try of the day.
Stand-in captain Sam Harby said: “It was a tough day at the office!
“Our discipline is always improving but today we were caught out - to be fair to the lads the circumstances were unusual and although it took us most of the game, we did eventually learn how to deal with the ref.”
Maudsley, given man of the match by the hosts, added: “Aylestone were much improved and worthy of running us close.
“For reasons beyond the control of either side, the game never flowed and I suspect they will be even more frustrated than us!
“But the first and last 10 minutes of the game were proof of what we’re capable of and I believe we deserved the win.”
Team manager John Hume said: “If we can win under those circumstances, beating a good side at their ground, we can afford to approach games with a degree of confidence.
“But we need to remain realistic and focused. We’ve slipped up before and weren’t far off losing today - only our best will be good enough to guarantee winning games.”
Bourne: Wheeler, H Thornburn, Greenwood, Harby, Cooke, Williams, Binns, Dixon, Evison, Lagdon, Castle, Maudsley, Charlton, Lynch, Berry, Tito Xipu, Smith, S Thornburn, Gill, Bentley.