RUGBY: Midlands Three East (South): Queens 50 Bourne 11
Bourne found themselves on the road again at the weekend, this time visiting Bedford Queens who they lost to in a memorable Midlands Junior Vase quarter final two years ago.
The visitors were without coach and fly-half Dave Maudsley, as well as props Ian Knight and Chris Greenwood, assistant coach and vice-captain respectively.
This left Bourne short in both leadership and cover for the front five.
But for the opening ten minutes of the game, both sides looked at ease until Bourne were dealt an early blow when captain Tom Dixon had to leave the field with an injured ankle.
With back row Adam Binns once again playing in the centres, Bourne were forced to reshuffle and Keir Moore moved backwards from the second row, being replaced by veteran Antony Cooke who had returned from long-term injury.
Finding themselves in disarray after the enforced break in play, Bourne immediately conceded and Queens went ahead.
The home side were growing in confidence at this point and their tight five were dominant at the set-piece, starving Bourne of opportunity and building momentum with their better possession and territory.
But despite suddenly being underdogs, and playing against a significant wind, Bourne stuck at their game plan and made some decent inroads into the Queens half.
Scrum half Sam Evison continued his run of good form, while stand-in fly half Jack Berry showed signs of confidence in his different role and full back Josh Lynch carried the ball superbly.
The Bourne pack, off the back of some fantastic performances in recent games, competed for the large part but couldn't quite match their opponents.
Inevitably, Queens crossed twice more within the half and the game looked to be slipping away from Bourne who started the second half intent on salvaging some pride on what was proving to be a difficult day.
For the opening ten minutes of the second half, it looked as though were capable of creating something special as the Bourne forwards came to life with a number of well-worked penalties to put pressure on their hosts.
This pressure eventually led to a penalty which Evison slotted away with ease, repeating the feat just seconds later when the Bourne forwards once again showed they were capable of matching, and indeed bettering, their opponents.
But it was fate that once again dealt Bourne a number of cruel blows as, wthin a matter of minutes back row Dan Smith was forced off with a leg injury and centre JD Charlton followed shortly afterwards with a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, prop Paul Mambey was replaced by Iain Taylor who picked up an injury himself within just seconds of getting on the pitch.
Having played the majority of the game with their regular captain or vice-captain, without a number eight specialist and a recognised fly half, Bourne had done well to be just 17-6 behind.
But the spate of injuries forced a number of makeshift changes which understandably changed the game.
The last thirty minutes was almost entirely one-way traffic and despite Bourne's valiant defensive attempts, Queens racked up a number of tries, hitting the 50-point mark as the final whistle came.
Bourne deserved credit for making a fist of the game, at times playing with 13 or 14 men whilst additional injuries were dealt with.
But they had little hope under the circumstances, although, fittingly, Bourne crossed the line once themselves after another scintillating break from Lynch who found Cooke in support just as he was brought down.
Fortunately, Cooke had the sense to shift the ball quickly to wing Rob Bentley who finished a decent effort by the Bourne side.
After the game, Dixon said: "It's difficult when you have to shuffle the side the way we have today but that can't be an excuse.
"We'll have absences and injuries throughout a season, just like every club does, and the players we have available have to be able to step up.
"We'd targeted today as a 'must-win' so obviously we're disappointed.
"But we know that we have games to come that we can and should win which, in turn, will allow us to stay in this league.
"However, as a side, we need to stop talking about what we can do and actually start doing it."
Club chairman Ted Thornburn reflected on the difference in his side's performance after running top of the league Nottingham Casuals close a week earlier.
"We were very good at home last week but we've obviously struggled being away again, particularly with a number of people ending up playing out of position," Thornburn said.
"We haven't had our best 15 out at the same time once this year and that's proving to be costly.
"When we get a good side out, we either win or we run teams close.
"But the rest of the time we come up a long way short.
"We had a good season last year when we were relatively injury-free and we started this season thinking we had strength in depth.
"But the truth is we're often scraping a full side together and that isn't good enough.
"Our top 20 players are good enough, and committed enough, but we won't make it through a season at this level using just those 20 players."