Yellow cards prove costly in disappointing home defeat
Bourne Rugby Club skipper Tom Dixon offered a blunt assessment of his side’s performance as they lost 27-11 at home to Birstall on Saturday.
It was a third successive defeat from four Midlands 3 East (South) games for newly-promoted Bourne who were missing key players for the second consecutive Saturday.
Dixon said: “We weren't good enough.
“Missing players is not an excuse, particularly as we've been talking about our supposed strength-in-depth, and whoever gets selected has to front up and at the very least be competitive.
“There were times on Saturday where we made simple mistakes but worse still there were times where we didn't look like we wanted it - that's unforgivable.”
Bourne were buoyed by the return of skipper Dixon and looked to have put their early season woes behind them as they took the early lead.
Enjoying early possession Bourne put the visitors under pressure and, having worked their way to their opponents’ try-line, they took the first chance available to cross and take points.
Having failed to collect any points the previous week this was a welcome break for the home side.
It was assistant coach Ian Knight, called in to prop for the game, that took his opportunity and he looked to have done enough to inspire his team-mates.
A short while later Bourne's pressure brought about a penalty which, despite being on the halfway line, scrum-half Sam Evison converted with ease.
With the gap widening Birstall seemed to finally shake off their journey and quickly grew into the game.
They got off the mark with a penalty of their own but this was cancelled out by another addition by Evison before Birstall struck again, this time adding a try of their own as their winger rounded the Bourne defence to dot down.
Midway through the half centre Josh Lynch was given a rest to nurse a damaged eye which brought the welcome return of Sam Thornburn having recovered from a knee injury.
Lynch had carried well until this point but the side were not weakened by Thornburn who looked powerful in attack.
Thornburn's input was limited however as he received a yellow card which clearly put the hosts at a disadvantage.
Bourne looked bemused by Thornburn's sin-binning and a string of other decisions that then went against them and, despite their endeavours throughout the first half, their discipline started to crack.
There didn't look to be much between the two sides and, as the final minutes of the first half became increasingly scrappy, it wasn't surprising that Birstall added another penalty to end the first half 11-11.
Bourne were forced to change influential wing Rob Bentley at the interval as he appeared to have been concussed on the verge of half-time and Lynch returned to the field to replace Thornburn whose injury issues seemed to once again be flaring up.
Despite Birstall's revival towards the end of the first half, Bourne turned round confident they had enough in the tank to take the game away from their visitors.
But the scrappy nature of the game continued and Bourne did not respond well. Dixon received a yellow for foul play and, before he'd had chance to return to the game, Lynch was also sin-binned.
With just 13 men on the field, Bourne had their work cut out and Birstall were quick to take advantage by making the score 16-11.
The pressure was too much for Bourne and, despite the return of Dixon, they also leaked a couple of penalties allowing Birstall to widen the gap further.
At 22-11 down though Bourne felt they could match their opponents and, once Lynch had returned the side to the full quota, they set about a comeback.
But a fourth yellow card, to second row Ant Cooke, sealed their doom as they continued to play at a numerical disadvantage.
Birstall crossed once again in the dying minutes of the game to secure a 27-11 success.
With regular props Chris Greenwood and Jake Appleby missing, it had been down to Knight and second row Bradley Hiscocks to plug the gaps but - with the various sin-binnings - the set-piece was made to suffer.
Not match fit Knight eventually had to be replaced which meant hooker Harry Thornburn moving to prop and back row Dan Smith filling in at hooker.
Eventually though Thornburn picked up an injury and Knight was recalled to see out the game. Hiscocks - at prop the entire game - did an admirable job of filling in and was worthy of some credit for his performance.
In the backs Jack Berry, normally a full-back, performed well at fly-half providing a possible solution to Bourne's issues with finding a regular option there.
But, with injuries to Thornburn, Bentley and Lynch to add to the absence of Maudsley and Fitch among others, Bourne made little progress in an area they have always considered their strength.
Chairman Ted Thornburn commented: “There's no getting away from the fact that it was disappointing.
“With the greatest of respect to Birstall, I thought they were beatable but for that to have happened we can't play half the game with less than the full 15 players.
“Even with some decent players missing we had a side out who could have and should have got the result we wanted.
“We didn't agree with a number of decisions but that doesn't excuse how poor we allowed our discipline to be.”