Historic win for Bourne after stern home test against Oakham
Bourne achieved a historic win over an Oakham side who were relegated from Midlands 2 East (South) last season.
It was the first meeting of the two sides at Milking Nook Drove for a competitive 1st XVs game in recent history.
The visitors dominated possession and territory in the opening quarter as Bourne struggled for momentum.
However, they did throw themselves into a strong defensive effort to thwart Oakham's advances.
Meanwhile, Bourne's back three were called into action a number of times on the wings at the same time as their forwards did enough in and around the breakdowns to limit Oakham's progress.
Back row trio Dan Smith, Adam Binns and captain Tom Dixon were influential in setting the tone for their side as they covered all areas of the pitch, making numerous tackles and frequently disrupting the breakdowns.
Despite this, the one area where Bourne proved stronger was at the scrum, winning their own ball comfortably and disrupting the set-piece when it was Oakham's turn.
With the home side pack's defensive effort forcing a number of scrums, led by front row men Jake Appleby, Harry Thornburn and Chris Greenwood, Bourne were provided with a lifeline and the game remained scoreless for the opening fifteen minutes.
Oakham's pressure in open play did tell eventually as Bourne were forced into a number of errors from which the guests opened the scoring with a penalty.
But having soaked up so much pressure and finding themselves within reach of Oakham's 22-metre line, Bourne started to build some phases and quickly took a grip on the game.
After building a spell of pressure, Bourne earned a penalty of their own and centre Sam Evison levelled the score at 3-3.
Oakham responded a short while later with another penalty to go 6 - 3 ahead before Bourne totally dominated the second quarter, spending almost the entire 20 minutes inside Oakham's half.
The hosts looked to have taken the lead after a number of breakdowns secured by the pack provided the backs with a fantastic platform.
A well-executed move saw full back Jack Berry break into the Oakham 22 and with just one man to beat, Berry found wing Jamie Colangelo outside him and he cruised into the corner, only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
Bourne continued to apply the pressure in the lead-up to half-time and were eventually rewarded with another penalty, Evison once again on target to level the scores at 6 - 6.
The home side spent the final minutes of the half well inside the Oakham half, but they couldn't convert their pressure into points and the half finished with the game still level.
It was Oakham who started the brighter in the second half and they soon took themselves ahead again.
Bourne's defence worked tirelessly throughout the game, but the wet conditions meant that competition at the breakdown was difficult.
In addition, there were too many times when Bourne's eagerness to turn over ball saw them fall guilty of diving in off their feet.
The first time they were penalised happened within range of the posts and Oakham didn't hesitate in taking the opportunity to add another three points to make it 6-9.
In front again, momentum quickly swung Oakham's way but Bourne's first-up and drift defence remained resolute.
For a long period of time the game continued with the hosts trailing until Bourne were eventually caught off guard with a rare mistake, leaving Oakham's last man unmarked and able to coast under the sticks.
With the conversion added Bourne were now 6 - 16 behind and running out of time as they were forced into a number of changes.
But from a lineout inside their own half, Bourne's backs shipped the ball the entire width of the pitch to Colangelo, having moved to full back, who fed wing Josh Lynch to make good yards before returning the ball to Colangelo on the inside.
Although he was brought down by Oakham's scrambling defence, the supporting backs for Bourne were quick to secure possession so that it could then be shipped the other way.
Some slick handling saw the ball reach Binns who stepped inside Oakham's last man, brushed off an attempted tackle and dodged the efforts of another cover tackler before crossing the tryline and carrying to the posts.
Evison added the conversion and Bourne were once again trailing by just three points.
But they weren't done there and as they had in the second quarter, Bourne once again started to impose themselves on their opponents.
Debutant prop Sam Cowell had a positive impact on the game as he came off the bench, while replacement back row Charlie Short also looked lively.
The energy of the Bourne replacements came at a perfect time and the entire team seemed lifted as they went into the final 15 minutes.
Centre Sam Thornburn had been well-marshalled in the first half but as the game wore on, his powerful running became a useful tool and one strong carry proved one too many for the Oakham defence as he burst through and scored his side's second try.
Evison made light work of a difficult conversion and Bourne had finally taken the lead 20 - 16.
With momentum very much on their side, Bourne set about extending their lead and they scored another try when replacement back Jack Lagdon gathered the ball deep inside his own 22, buying enough time to offload to Lynch who made his way to the half-way line.
Lynch was tackled just inside his own half but the Bourne forwards quickly won the ball back and it was shipped by scrumhalf JJ Roberts to Berry who showed his full range of skills, catching a difficult pass and feeding the ball to Colangelo.
The Bourne winger rounded his man and showed incredible pace to finish from 40 metres out, with Evison adding another conversion which gave Bourne a deserved 11-point lead.
Oakham did manage to turn the pressure back on Bourne and kick one more penalty.
But they were left with a deficit too large to overcome.
Bourne's man of the match award was shared between second row Sam Harby, with another standout performance, and Binns who said: "I've been here a long time and that was one of the best results we've ever had.
"But it isn't a one-off and we know now that we can win games like this on a regular basis.
"It was a tough game, but the forwards dug deep and built a platform, while the backs showed they are more than capable of providing the points once they have that platform."
Player-coach Andrew Brown said: "We were good today but I think the lads would agree we can be even better.
"Oakham are a good, experienced side and they tested us at the sort of level we need to be at if we're going to be as good as we can be.
"If we're honest, there were times when we fell off the pace and the reality is that we have very high standards.
"So I guess that it's pleasing to some extent that we can fall short of those but still dig out a good win, defending well and scoring some great tries along the way."
BOURNE: Appleby, Harry Thornburn, Greenwood, Harby, Brown, Smith, Binns, Dixon, Roberts, McHugh, Lynch, Evison, Sam Thornburn, Colangelo, Berry. Subs: Cowell, Short, Lagdon.