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RUGBY UNION: Big difference on derby day

Photos by Lee Hellwing
Photos by Lee Hellwing

Having beaten promotion counterparts St Neots in their opening game of the season, Bourne's next task proved an altogether different challenge as they faced Stamford who were relegated last term.

Although Bourne don't look like a side ready to return to Midlands Four, Stamford certainly hope to bounce back up and - at times during the derby on Saturday - the difference between the sides was telling.

Despite a degree of confidence going into the game, Bourne were quickly on the backfoot.

Receiving kick-off, a mistake with the ensuing offload put Bourne under pressure and taking possession Stamford immediately showed their intent as they powered over the hosts' try line to open the scoring with just a minute on the clock.

And within just another couple of minutes Stamford had extended their lead with another try and the extras.

Although finished out wide, it was once again the power and direct running of the Stamford side in-field that proved decisive.

Already licking their wounds, Bourne suffered the loss of captain Tom Dixon - forced to leave the field with a rib injury after just 10 minutes.

Bourne v Stamford
Bourne v Stamford

It was the strength of the Stamford running that proved to be the downfall of Bourne throughout the afternoon.

With the home side missing far too many first up tackles, Stamford were always on the front foot and with a good off-loading game they breezed past Bourne at times and the scoreline seemed in danger of getting out of hand.

Credit to Bourne, though, as they dug deep and eventually made a decent fist of their own contribution to the game.

Their tackling improved and on the occasions they slipped up, the mistake was quickly rectified and the opportunity for Stamford to build continuity through their offloading was limited as defensive support among the home side meant their guests weren't allowed the same freedom.

Stamford were the bigger and more destructive side but with Bourne making their tackles, they grew into the game and enjoyed some possession of their own.

Unable to match the speed and physicality of their guests, Bourne were out of their comfort zone but scrum-half Sam Evison took control by trying to help his side build some phases.

This paid off eventually and after Bourne were awarded a penalty, it was Evison himself who added their first points of the day by striking a long-range penalty.

Bourne v Stamford
Bourne v Stamford

Bourne seemed buoyed by their endeavours and continued to enjoy more possession and more territory.

After their best stint of the half, the ball was shipped along the backline deep in their opponents' 22 to wing Callum Weston, in acres of space, who was unable to finish the move when the last pass didn't quite reach him.

Somewhat unkindly the ball bounced in the path of the oncoming Stamford defence and they were quick to take advantage. After a break by the fullback and a couple of well-timed offloads by his team-mates, they scored next in a cruel reversal of fortune.

Bourne v Stamford
Bourne v Stamford

From the restart Bourne once again built pressure and they sensed they might once again have a chance to narrow the lead but were disappointed to find themselves stranded on just three points as the first half drew to a close with Stamford having outscored them by 31 points.

Bourne had been outplayed for much of the first half and after the break were clearly looking to make amends.

Starting where they left off they made their way into the Stamford half - props Keir Moore and Jake Appleby carried well and were well supported by backrow Adam Binns and second row Andrew Brown.

With the pressure mounting Stamford leaked a number of penalties but so far behind on the scoreboard Bourne couldn't afford to turn to the boot of Evison and instead opted to kick to touch.

Making their way up to the Stamford five-metre line, Bourne took the simple approach of tapping and running the next penalty and second row Sam Harby crashed over to give his side a glimmer of hope.

Despite an improved effort in the second half Bourne were unable to increase their scoreline.

Both sides suffered injuries throughout the half and as a result lost structure but, as they had in the first half, Stamford dominated and benefited from their superiority moving forward.

Bourne had little possession in the second half but when they had it hooker Harry Thornburn and 17-year-old debutant Jack Fitch made decent yards but the home side simply didn't have possession for long enough periods.

Bourne v Stamford
Bourne v Stamford

Stamford's size and athleticism meant they ruled open play and at the very least they disrupted set-piece ball while Bourne were forced to live off scraps.

Not surprisingly Bourne's contribution to the remainder of the game was mostly defensive.

Although everybody played their part it was winger Josh Lynch, centre Dave Maudsley and the Bourne backrow of Binns, Sion Williams and Brown - covering the injured Dixon - leading the way.

It was testament to the newly promoted side, in a tough encounter, that they restricted Stamford to just an additional 18 points in the second half.

Bourne v Stamford
Bourne v Stamford

Maudsley admitted: "That was probably the hardest game we've had in two or three years.

"They're a good outfit and their intention to go back up is pretty clear - if they dominate games like they did today they shouldn't struggle!

"Just a couple of years ago we were somewhere near the bottom of Midlands Four and they were flying high in Midlands Two - it's an achievement for us just to be on the pitch with them.

"Coming down last year almost guarantees they should be the best side in this league and truthfully we'd be expecting to look elsewhere to nick some wins."

Skipper Dixon, reduced to a spectator for almost the entire game, had a good view of where his side went wrong.

He added: "We can't afford to miss so many tackles. We might get away with one or two against lower sides but so many against a side like Stamford is criminal.

"They don't look like they'll need much help winning games so other sides will need to be at their best to compete and unfortunately we weren't today."

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