Bourne fight back after an early deficit to beat Dunstablians
Having suffered back-to-back defeats over their previous two league fixtures, Bourne returned to winning ways.
They had recorded an emphatic victory over Dunstablians earlier in the season - but their opponents arrived at Milking Nook Drove on a run of decent form and within reaching distance of the Bourne's top three spot.
As often seems to be the case, Bourne started the slower of the teams and within 10 minutes they found themselves two tries behind.
Playing into a stiff wind, it looked as though Bourne were in for a long afternoon as Dunstablians repeatedly forced their way into the attacking half.
The absence of Bourne prop Chris Greenwood was notable as the hosts struggled to deal with a strong Dunstablians pack who looked intent on putting up more resistance than they had in the reverse fixture.
In open play, the sides appeared evenly matched but a combination of their dominance at the set-piece and some smart kicking from their fly-half saw Dunstablians firmly based within striking distance of the Bourne try line.
But against the odds it was Bourne who struck next as centre Sam Thornburn took a grip on the game.
Thornburn took a simple pass at pace and his power proved too much for the Dunstablians backline as he burst through the defence.
He then showed some smart footwork to beat the last defender before crossing to open Bourne's account. Sam Evison, kicking into terrible conditions, was unable to add the conversion.
Dunstablians added another try minutes later when their pack continued to impress with a string of attacking breakdowns linking a number of useful phases.
They eventually forced themselves over the Bourne try line to extend their lead. At 17-5 ahead the missed conversion probably didn't faze Dunstablians greatly.
Thankfully for Bourne, Thornburn's scintillating form that saw him bag their first try continued and he instigated their second try.
In similar fashion he broke from his own 22, proving far too strong for his opposite man to deal with.
As the Dunstablians defence scrambled to make amends, Thornburn linked with wing Josh Lynch - providing a deft pass that saw him then able to angle towards the Dunstablians try line.
Lynch was tracked well by the cover defence and under pressure he managed to throw a sublime pass to his right-wing counterpart Adam Castle who, on his league debut for the club, finished the try with ease. From the corner of the pitch, Evison missed the conversion narrowly.
Bourne, having made hard work of the first half, were pleased to get to the break just 17-10 behind.
Club captain Tom Dixon, having started on the bench due to late availability, was brought on to give his side some much needed go-forward.
Turning round with the wind likely to be very much to their advantage, the home side were determined to start well but from the restart they once again found themselves deep in their own half.
Some smart thinking by fly-half Evison saw the pressure on the hosts relieved as he made good use of the wind by kicking long into the visitors' half.
While the kick was good, the chase was even better and as the Dunstablians full-back eventually gathered the ball he was quickly met by Evison, Thornburn and full-back Jack Berry.
Finding himself isolated, the Dunstablians player tried to keep the ball alive while his team-mates arrived but Thornburn once again proved too strong and after ripping the ball into his possession he cruised 10 metres to the try line untroubled.
Evison added the conversion and just minutes into the second half the sides were level at 17-all.
Bourne began to improve at this point and looked to take control.
The pack found better consistency at the scrums and were more influential around the park.
Second row partners Sam Harby and Keir Moore carried well and back row Gary Farrell proved dynamic in the loose.
Although finished by the backs again it was the momentum provided by the forwards that led to Bourne's next try.
After a number of positive phases by the pack, the ball was quickly shipped down the Bourne backline.
With some clever decoy running in the midfield, the Dunstablians defence were drawn to Thornburn but the ball this time found its way to Castle.
With men still to beat, Castle made light work of finishing his second try - taking Bourne into the lead as he dotted down. Evison was on target again and on the hour mark Bourne had finally taken the lead.
Their lead was extended a short while later when prop Jake Appleby won his side a penalty as he latched onto the ball at a Dunstablians breakdown. Evison converted the penalty and his side looked relatively comfortable going into the last 15 minutes 10 points ahead.
Dunstablians narrowed the gap with a penalty of their own but this was quickly cancelled out when Dixon scored an opportunist try.
As Dunstablians looked to build an attack from their own half, Dixon took a chance and shot into the visitors' line - intercepting the ball as he did before finishing from 20 metres out.
Evison couldn't add the conversion but with 10 minutes left Bourne were 32-20 ahead and looking to close the game out.
Dunstablians had played a significant part throughout and they remained ambitious right the way through.
Despite playing into the wind and facing a Bourne side that improved throughout, Dunstablians continued to show the form that had taken them to an early lead and with five minutes left they crossed once again to get within just five points.
This spurred the guests on and from the restart they continued to attack in the same vein.
Bourne defended with everything they had and on a number of occasions were fortunate to restrain the lively Dunstablians.
Back-rowers Dan Smith and Adam Binns played a big part in their side's defensive efforts and the hosts appeared to have done enough when they won a scrum with the final play of the day.
But on a day where Bourne seemed destined to make hard work of matters, it was of little surprise that Dunstablians won the scrum inside Bourne's 22 against the head and the game looked set for a dramatic finish.
Some furious defence repelled numerous Dunstablians attacks but they didn't give up, finally trying to roll a maul right under the Bourne posts.
A huge last effort by Bourne, including a late input from replacement Paul Mambey, proved just enough as the home side turned the ball over to finish the game.
Man of the match Thornburn was pleased to have been heavily involved in his side's victory.
He said: "Dunstablians put in a good performance, particularly in the first half and the last 10 minutes - we did well to get the win!
"We'll probably look back and think we could have done better but we know sides won't roll over for us and we have to earn our results."
Dixon added: "Overall we were probably the better side but we made life very difficult for ourselves.
"Leaking points at the start of games leaves us having to overcome a points deficit and wrestle back momentum.
"When we're in front with the conditions in our favour, we can't afford to let sides back into the game like we did.
"We've got tough games to come but we'll get back to training and get ourselves ready for them."
More by this authorMark Lea