Bourne Rugby Club made history at the weekend after reaching the RFU Midlands Vase final for the first time since their formation 30 years ago.
They claimed an 18-15 away win in a tricky semi-final clash at North Hykeham who are enjoying a successful season in Midlands 5 East (North) to the delight of proud skipper Tom Dixon.
He said: “The lads gave it everything - you only had to look at them after the game to know how hard they’d worked.
“We’ve built a culture that no matter how the rugby is going we’re a group of mates above anything else and that extra dimension allows us to dig deep when games get tough.”
It was clear from the warm-up that both sides were motivated but the home side seemed more comfortable in familiar surroundings and looked well-drilled and clinical prior to kick-off.
The early signs indicated that it was going to be another hard battle for Bourne and in the opening minutes they found themselves under considerable pressure.
Hykeham were quick to capitalise on this and opened the scoring.
But, as they have on so many occasions this year, Bourne looked to bounce back immediately and started to build pressure of their own.
With two even sides giving it everything they had the game was frantic with the team in possession running hard and fast and the team defending throwing their bodies in the way time and time again.
With both sides starved of possession for long periods they were forced to defend relentlessly until the other side made a mistake and then make the most of their own opportunity to attack.
Bourne enjoyed one of the longer passages of possession and having sucked the Hykeham defence narrow they eventually shipped the ball to player-coach Dave Maudsley who was waiting out wide.
As he did last week Maudsley opened the scoring for his side as he fooled the drifting defence with a dummy before shooting inside to dot down.
Scrum-half Sam Evison couldn’t convert but Bourne started to believe they could dig out a win.
Hykeham struck next though as they turned some decent possession into points courtesy of a close range penalty.
Met with a backline very much their equals the Bourne backs were challenged in a way they weren’t used to but the Bourne pack proved the difference. Athough they were matched by their hosts at the breakdown it was their contribution to open play that shaped the outcome of the game.
The Bourne back row were as reliable as ever and were credited with a lot of good work but it was the front row of Chris Wheeler, Harry Thornburn and Jake Appleby who shone most as they repeatedly carried out wide.
Vice-captain Sam Harby, recently converted from the centres to the second row, also played a crucial role and was later nominated joint man of the match for his outstanding performance.
It was Harby that put Bourne back in front when Thornburn found himself in space with one man to beat.
With Harby arriving outside him Thornburn drew the last man and threw a well timed pass. Starting on the halfway line Harby had a long way to go and looked as though he might get pulled down short by the covering Hykeham fullback but he stepped inside avoiding him completely.
Evison was able to add the extras taking Bourne a converted try ahead.
Bourne put pressure on themselves in the final minutes of the half when after a string of penalties full-back Jack Berry, later named joint man of the match, was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Down to 14, Bourne upped their effort levels and through real endeavour managed not to conceded during Berry’s absence.
After a blistering 40 minutes, Bourne welcomed the half-time break and introduced some fresh legs.
With strength in depth this season Bourne were able to bring centre Sam Thornburn and utility forward Andrew Brown off the bench which meant the side weren’t weakened in any way.
Hykeham started the second half as they had the first and the early collisions were a statement from both sides that they had no intention of backing down.
Bourne were first to add to the scoreboard when Evison landed a huge penalty kick from the halfway line, taking his side to a 15-8 lead.
With the conditions in their favour, particularly a slight slope, the Bourne backs utilised their kicking game and pinned their opponents in their own half.
With the forwards playing their part defensively, Hykeham’s progress was greatly limited.
Bourne’s next score was arguably the highlight of the day and later proved to be the winning points.
Failing to clear their line effectively Hykeham managed to only kick the ball as far as their own 10m line where it was gathered by Berry who, despite being some way wide, nonchalantly dropped a goal.
A full 10 points in front and enjoying most of the territorial game Bourne looked set to see the match out but an error in judgement following one of the Bourne kicks proved costly as winger Josh Lynch was yellow-carded for taking his opposite man out while in the air.
Despite their best efforts Bourne couldn’t keep Hykeham from narrowing the lead during Lynch’s time in the bin.
Making use of their extra man the Hykeham side ran the ball wide from a scrum and some simple handling allowed them to get outside the Bourne defence and, with acres of space, the Hykeham winger crossed to score under the posts.
Adding the conversion the hosts were now just three points behind with sufficient time left to still upset their guests.
The dying minutes were much like the rest of the game with both sides very much the others equal.
With the last play of the game Hykeham’s desperation led to a rise in their energy levels and they made serious inroads towards the Bourne try-line.
Desperate tackling from Bourne, notably by Lynch having returned to the game, was just enough to stall one particular attack but Hykeham continued to build phases until Harby managed to strip the ball and hand possession, and the win, back to Bourne who will face Midlands 4 West (North) leaders Eccleshall in the final
Bourne: C Wheeler, H Thornburn, J Appleby, S Harby, A Cooke, G Lindley, S Williams, T Dixon, S Evison, D Castle, J Lynch, D Maudsley, JD Charlton, R Bentley, J Berry, J Wheeler, D Smith, A Brown, S Thornburn, J Lagdon.