Battling Bourne overcome bottom-of-the-table St Neots with 'clinical' performance
Bourne made it five league wins in a row with a surprisingly hard-fought win at bottom-of-the-table St Neots.
Against a side still looking for their first win this season, Bourne arrived at their opponents' New Street ground as firm favourites to close the gap on the league's top spot.
But the first 20 minutes of the game suggested that player/coach Andrew Brown's side were less than well-prepared, with an upset potentially on the cards.
St Neots had almost all the possession and territory during the first quarter but without the ability to convert their pressure into points.
Eventually a solitary penalty allowed them to open the scoring, although they were clearly frustrated that their early dominance had amounted to so little reward.
Despite making hard work for themselves, Bourne somehow found their scramble defence just enough in thwarting St Neots' advances and their efforts to stop their hosts crossing the try line proved additionally frustrating to the hosts whose XV failed to execute on too many occasions.
Completely against the run of play Bourne made their way out of their 22 with a cleverly angled run by fly half Jack Lagdon who eventually linked up with captain Tom Dixon in crossing the St Neots' half.
When Dixon was brought down, the Bourne pack did well to ensure the ball was recycled quickly and scrum half Sam Evison provided a quick pass to prop Jake Appleby who crashed over from ten metres out.
Evison added the conversion to extend Bourne's unlikely lead.
But St Neots struck next when a Bourne mistake at the restart led to a penalty, allowing the home side to narrow the gap to just a point.
However, Bourne proved better at taking their chances and in similar fashion to their first try they added another seven points.
Brown found a gap in the St Neots' defence far too easily and made good ground as hooker Harry Thornburn showed good awareness to support him on the outside.
Then after receiving the ball, Thornburn fed it on to wing Jamie Colangelo who crossed the try line untroubled.
Evison added the extra two points show Bourne's skills at being far more clinical than their hosts, leaving with maximum points from their visits to the try line, in contrast to St Neots' two penalties.
Dixon gave his side a clear message at half-time that an improved performance was required in the second 40 minutes if they were to finish the game with the right result under their belts.
Bourne appeared to have heeded Dixon's words when they scored within the first five minutes of the second half.
The visiting pack, as they have so many times this season, were solid at the scrum, with prop Chris Greenwood enjoying a particularly good afternoon.
With that platform in place, the Bourne backs ran the simplest of moves and the ball quickly reached wing Chris Warnes who dived down in the corner.
Minutes later Bourne went over again after a solo effort from Josh Lynch who was playing out of position at inside centre.
Lynch shot up in defence as St Neots attacked and caused disruption as they looked to get the ball wide.
Then as the ball went loose, Lynch managed to gather it and beat the St Neots' defence in a 30-metre foot race to finish under the posts.
Evison was on target to give Bourne a comfortable lead of 26-6.
Bourne were denied on a further two occasions in the next ten minutes as first Dixon was adjudged to have been held up over the line after a powerful run.
Then Thornburn was ruled to have knocked the ball forward as he looked to ground it following a quick burst round the last of the St Neots' defenders.
Ironically it was then that St Neots scored the next points in the game as they took possession against the run of play and turned a reasonable counter-attack into something far more valuable.
With a couple of lively runners, St Neots forced their way into the Bourne half and some dubious defence from the visitors allowed the passage of play to continue.
Despite some valiant efforts to end the move, Bourne offer of resistance was a case of "too little, too late" as they disappointingly conceded a try.
Unable to add the conversion, St Neots were still some way behind at 26-11.
But they had time on their side and were benefitting from being on the right side of the weather conditions in the second half.
It was at this point that Bourne chose to turn the screw and after another solid set-piece move from the pack, their backs shipped the ball wide and Colangelo showed his pace to go round his opposite man with ease to score his second try of the day.
Warnes then looked to have gone in for his second try until he was brought down just inside the St Neots' 22.
However, having shown the foresight to offload as he went to ground, Warnes instead turned provider as he popped the ball to Lynch and set him up for his second try of the game.
With both tries right in the opposite corners of the St Neots' half, Evison missed the conversion attempts by the narrowest of margins.
The final ten minutes of the game became a scrappy affair with both sides guilty of ill-discipline as neither could build any momentum.
As the final whistle came, it looked as though both sides were relieved, although Bourne were the far happier to have weathered something of a St Neots' storm.
After the game, Dixon said: "Our preparation wasn't great for one reason or another but we can't let that dictate games to such an extent.
"We're a good side and have shown we're worthy of being in or around the top of the table.
"But we have to maintain our standards every week and we now have back-to-back fixtures against two of the in-form sides in this league, so we can't afford to be so far off our best."
Bourne currently sit second in the league, a point off leaders Stockwood Park, the highest position ever reached in the club's history.
Yet very little separates the top half of the table as Bourne host Spalding on Saturday, with their South Holland rivals having overcome their shaky start to the season with four consecutive league wins.
Man of the match Appleby said: "I'm looking forward to the next two games against Spalding and Stamford, both of whom are obviously good sides.
"They will be a great chance for us to work out where we're at because the lads are playing well this season and they are right to be confident.
"But the occasion of two local derbies adds a different type of pressure".
BOURNE: Appleby, Harry Thornburn, Greenwood, Harby, Brown, Cowell, Binns, Dixon, Evison, Lagdon, Warnes, Lynch, Sam Thornburn, Colangelo, Berry. Subs: Short, Smith, Maudsley, Charlton.