RUGBY UNION: Bourne beaten in opening league game after bad start
Bourne's first 15 minutes of the opening league encounter may well be the worst quarter of an hour all season.
They had enjoyed two wins from two warm-up games but there was no doubting both had been rusty performances and this vein of form continued.
Kicking to Stockwood Park to start the game, Bourne looked startled by the tempo at which their opponents carried the ball back and were immediately under pressure in defence.
Having dragged the hosts one way, Stockwood immediately reversed their point of attack and benefitted from an overlap on the blindside. With just two minutes on the clock they crossed to take an early lead.
Bourne restarted the game, sending the restart deep into Stockwood territory. Wing Josh Lynch - Bourne's standout player throughout the game - followed quickly and showed impeccable timing to send the Stockwood catcher several yards backwards with a thumping collision.
Stockwood absorbed the pressure and after a couple of phases showed they had plenty to offer as their fly-half kicked to the far side of the pitch.
The Stockwood winger chased hard and benefitted from a lucky bounce as he competed with his opposite man JJ Roberts to take possession. Just 10 minutes in, Bourne were 14-0 down and looking desperate.
Matters were only made worse when the hosts were once again under pressure and gave away a penalty inside their 22. The Stockwood fly-half sent the kick over with ease to extend his side's lead to 17 points.
Eventually, though, the home side swung momentum their way and with possession of the ball they began to build some phases. Props Jake Appleby and Simon Jakeman carried well and they were well supported by their pack who worked hard to make ground.
Bourne soon turned the pressure into points when they were awarded a penalty. Sam Evison, in his new position of centre, converted with ease and the home side looked to start their comeback.
The hard work of the pack brought further reward a short while later. Second row Sam Harby was instrumental as always and made inroads into the Stockwood defence who struggled with their discipline whenever their hosts were on the front foot. A powerful run by Harby led to another Stockwood infringement and Evison duly added another three points.
The game became something of a stalemate as Bourne found their feet. The forwards matched their opponents and with greater possession, the Bourne backs also grew into the game.
Adam McHugh, in his first outing at fly-half, linked well with centre Sam Thornburn and the impressive Lynch was inspirational both in attack and defence.
In the dying minutes of the half Evison added another penalty and the hosts reached the break 17-9 behind - hoping the break would be a welcome opportunity to overcome their horrendous start to the game.
Bourne's belief escalated when they scored within a minute of the second half starting.
Receiving kick-off, Bourne worked their way through a couple of breakdowns before shipping the ball to Roberts on the blindside.
With little room to work with, Roberts made a few yards before opting to kick long. He showed an urgency his side had lacked in the first half as he chased his kick and arriving at the same time as the Stockwood cover defence, he did well to out-muscle his man before collecting the ball and sending a sublime pass inside to Evison who had also chased hard in support.
Evison converted his own try and Bourne were just a point behind with almost the entire second half still to play.
But as they had at the start, Bourne switched off for the next quarter and allowed Stockwood to take full advantage.
Although Bourne had generally tackled well and shown a degree of structure in their defence after the opening 10 minutes, they missed crucial tackles that cost them severely.
On two occasions in a 10-minute spell Bourne's half-hearted attempts to tackle saw Stockwood break through with ease and both times they went on to score tries.
With both tries converted the visitors went 31-19 up, Bourne's only contribution in that spell another penalty effort by Evison.
Once again, though, Bourne showed they were capable of a much better performance than they were demonstrating and they brought about the next points with the highlight of the game.
Having won a lineout well inside their own half, the Bourne backs - with Jack Berry standing in at fly-half - ran the ball wide and Thornburn made one of his trademark breaks.
As he was met by the cover defence, Thornburn threw a well timed pass to Lynch who made good yards before returning the ball to Thornburn who had continued his run on the inside.
Thornburn then fed the ball to Roberts who had covered considerable ground to put himself in a position to finish an outstanding team effort. Once again Evison added the conversion.
Trailing by just five points, with only minutes left on the clock, Bourne finally came to life.
Dynamic carrying by the pack saw the side move forward and with the ball being recycled quickly each time, Bournee began to play at the sort of tempo Stockwood had shown in the first quarter.
Captain Tom Dixon led the way as his pack got right behind him. It was this effort by the forwards that once again set a platform for the backs and when the ball was eventually sent wide it looked as though Bourne had done enough to at least tie the game.
Roberts, now at full-back, joined the line as they attacked and drew the last of the Stockwood defenders before trying to find Adam Binns who had moved from the back row to the wing. With the try-line beckoning, Roberts' pass was a touch behind Binns and he was unable to hold on.
From the resulting scrum Stockwood worked their way into the hosts' half and it was testament to Bourne's improved efforts that when the guests won a penalty they chose to kick to touch and end the game rather than chase further points.
Bourne took away a losing bonus point despite being some way from their best.
Dixon said: "We gave ourselves too much to do leaking 14 points in the first 10 minutes.
"Take away those tries and we'd be looking at a totally different outcome but instead we've had to chase the whole game and unfortunately that led to some poor discipline and a general lack of structure."
Vice-captain Evison's contribution of 21 points was typical of his ability but he was quick to hail Lynch's performance as man of the match.
He said: "We all know how good Josh is but he was unreal.
"As a side we should be taking a leaf out of his book and tackling and running the way he does.
"Personally it's great to score points but I only get those opportunities as a result of all the hard work that goes in from the team. And I give them back in a heartbeat if it meant winning."
More by this authorMark Lea