RUGBY UNION: Bourne extend winning run
Bourne edged a step closer to league safety at the weekend as they toppled fourth-placed Daventry.
Having travelled to Northamptonshire earlier in the season with an under-strength side, Bourne had been the wrong end of a 74-0 thrashing.
However, enjoying something of a rejuvenation, they fancied their chances in the return fixture as the side gets closer to full strength.
The opening 10 minutes were relatively even as both sides looked to take control but Bourne quickly proved to be stronger.
With all the possession and all the territory, Bourne outplayed Daventry during the first quarter but they failed to take their early chances.
Bourne's latest signing Adam McHugh partnered the previous week's man of the match Sam Thornburn in the centres and both proved threatening in the early exchanges.
Josh Lynch, having returned to the wing to accommodate McHugh, missed out on a couple of early opportunities as the final pass in a number of moves didn't quite make it to hand.
Bourne's pressure soon paid off, though, when scrum-half Sam Evison converted a penalty kick to take his side in front.
Not long later the ball found its way to Lynch again as Bourne repeated their feats of the previous week as every player looked to get involved in the try-scoring process.
Thanks to the dynamic rucking of his pack and slick handling by his backline, Lynch was eventually provided a genuine opportunity to extend his side's lead.
With plenty to do to finish the move, Lynch made light work of beating four defenders before crossing in the corner. Evison was unfortunate not to add the extras as his conversion hit the upright.
Evison's missed conversion looked to be his final contribution as he picked up a shoulder injury shortly after the restart.
However, his absence didn't weaken the side as utility replacement JD Charlton slotted straight into scrum-half. And it was Charlton who instigated Bourne's next score.
From a lineout in the Daventry 22, Charlton threw a fantastic long-range pass to fly-half Dave Maudsley for the simplest of passes to Thornburn who somehow cruised to the try-line by avoiding any genuine threats from the Daventry defence.
Taking over the kicking duties, full-back Jack Berry was unlucky not to extend the lead as his kick bounced off the crossbar.
Despite their total dominance, Bourne slipped up a short while later and Daventry finally found their way onto the scoreboard with a penalty.
But the visitors' opening points weren't enough to ease their frustration at being second best and, as the first half drew to a close, they were reduced to 14 men as their outside centre was sin-binned for punching. As the referee had clearly seen the strike, Bourne were left confused that the decision hadn't in fact been a red card.
Bourne finished the half 13-3 up and by some margin the better side.
Despite having the elements with them in the second half, the message from coach Maudsley and skipper Tom Dixon was that Bourne had to build on their lead and not leak points as they had at the start of the second half the week before.
Bourne's intent seemed to be fulfilled as they struck first in the second half. Having returned to the field, Evison reverted to his normal form - striking a penalty from almost his own half.
But Daventry also came out looking for points in the second half and it wasn't long before they enjoyed a greater share of possession.
In turn this led to better territory and it wasn't long before the visitors converted their pressure into points.
Switching off momentarily in defence, Bourne allowed the Daventry pack to make good yards around the breakdown and one drive too many led to the hosts conceding under their own posts. With the conversion added, Daventry were now within a converted try of taking the lead.
Bourne upped the tempo once again and with it they took control of the game.
Giving Daventry little opportunity to advance, the Bourne pack built a platform off which their backs worked well and, with a mix of good ball carrying and intelligent kicking, Bourne kept their guests pinned in their own half.
Second row Andrew Brown put in his best performance to date as he was involved in much of the good work by his side.
Bourne's pressure resulted in a number of penalties and with a gentle breeze behind him, Evison was able to add three points from almost the halfway line to take his side to 19-10. Just moments later he added another long-range effort to extend the lead.
The final 20 minutes became a sloppy affair which appeared to suit Daventry who had struggled to match Bourne's efforts in the first half.
The closing stages of the game were best reflected in the sin-binning of Bourne prop Ian Knight. Having seen the Daventry number eight appear to deliberately stamp on the exposed ankle of Maudsley, he wasted no time in telling his opponent what he thought. Having missed the stamping but being within earshot of Knight's outburst, the referee was quick to send him from the field.
Buoyed by Bourne's misfortune, Daventry were next to score but again it was amidst confusion.
From just 10 metres off the Bourne try-line, the Daventry fly-half clearly ran behind his own man before changing angle to dot down under the posts.
Adamant that their defence had been impeded and, under the impression that the infringement had been noticed, Bourne were clearly frustrated when the referee awarded the try.
At 22-17 with just minutes left, the result was in the balance but the tables appeared to have been flipped once again in the dying minutes as Daventry were infuriated by a challenge made by Dixon.
Amidst calls that Dixon had deliberately led with his knee into a Daventry player on the floor, the Daventry hooker lost control with the referee and found himself yellow carded.
Among all the chaos of the final stages, it was fitting that it was the calm head and accurate boot of Evison that took Bourne's lead out of reach.
Having been awarded a penalty for the behaviour of the Daventry hooker, Evison took Bourne to eight points ahead with a minute to play.
From the restart Bourne bought just enough time before Berry allowed himself to be tackled off the pitch, bringing the game to an end.
Dixon said: "We were by far the better side in the first half and that took them by surprise.
"When they realised they couldn't outplay us, they tried other ways to even the game out but we're stronger and smarter than we used to be and won't be bullied into losing games."
Bourne second row Sam Harby maintained his recent form with a man-of-the-match performance but he was quick to pay tribute to the rest of the squad.
He said: "We're having a good run this side of Christmas.
"The effort at training, the team spirit and the performances have brought us some great results and they've also led to momentum. We knew it would be tough but we knew we'd finish strongly so we have to keep this up over the remaining games."
Bourne, desperate to remain at this level, remain in eighth place but every win takes them further from the danger of relegation.
With six games remaining, they are now eight points clear of the bottom two sides - six points ahead of Rushden & Higham and just one point above Birstall.
Bourne have a cup game against North Hykeham this weekend before returning to league rugby when they visit Dunstablians - a side they beat well in the first meeting before Christmas.