Further league success with home win against Bedford Swifts
Win against Bedford Swifts takes Bourne another step closer to promotion
Bourne's victory against Bedford Swifts at the weekend might well have been enough to take them one step closer to promotion itself, but with league chasers Wellingborough O.G. and Brackley both slipping up, the gap between the top two and mid-table widened considerably. Having beaten Wellingborough O.G., Deepings jumped to third but remain twelve points behind their local rivals.
Bourne anticipated a strong Swifts side and the game certainly proved a tight contest. Playing with a strong wind in the first half Bourne enjoyed early possession and despite the conditions demonstrated some of the skills that have seen them score some exhilarating tries this season. The tries didn't come as readily this time though and in the first fifteen minutes Bourne failed to execute a number of opportunities. Having had so much ball and spending so long in the Swifts twenty-two Bourne were eventually disappointed to come away with just a solitary penalty, courtesy of scrum half Sam Evison. The home side were confident though that they would soon have the opportunity to build a decent lead.
However it was Swifts who struck next after finally getting their hands on the ball. Building some momentum they strung together some phases before attempting to ship the ball wide. Realising his options were limited the Swifts fly half ran back into his forwards using them to effectively evade the Bourne defence. Missing the conversion Swifts were 5 - 3 up.
With yet another sublime kick Evison regained the lead for Bourne with an awkward effort from some way out and the home side led by just a point.
Bourne began to open up at this point. The forwards secured regular possession at the set-pieces and the backs shifted the ball confidently in open play creating a number of half-gaps in the Swifts defence. Fullback Jack Berry, having missed an earlier opportunity to open the scoring, made amends with a fantastic solo try finding his way through a crowd of opposition defenders. Finishing just wide of the posts Berry left Evison an easy two points taking Bourne to a 13 - 5 lead.
It wasn't long before the home side crossed once again. Forcing the Swifts backline to focus their defensive efforts centrally the Bourne backs created one of their trademark efforts; fly half Drew Castle fed a clever pass to centre Dave Maudsley who threw a long miss-pass to left wing Josh Lynch. Lynch, often at the end of such moves, gave a well timed pass to right wing Rob Bentley who'd covered the full width of the pitch to support. Bentley crossed in the corner and Bourne went further ahead, the lead then extended by the boot of Evison.
At 20 - 5 up Bourne looked in a comfortable position and with another penalty from Evison, added from long-range, the side looked to have a good enough lead to defend in the second half.
Refreshed by the half-time break and buoyed by the weather being to their advantage for the duration of the second half Swifts started to make serious inroads through some powerful carries by their pack. Bourne however have become as effective in defence as they are in attack and for the opening twenty minutes of the half Swifts were held scoreless. Prop Chris Greenwood made a number of telling hits and lock Sam Harby continued his spell of good form. The biggest impact though came from the back row of Sion Williams, Adam Binns and skipper Tom Dixon who worked tirelessly. It's a sign of Bourne's strength in depth that as Swifts tired, Bourne were able to replace Binns and lock Ant Cooke with Dan Smith and George Lindley respectively, two players who immediately made an impact.
With the wind behind them Swifts enjoyed playing much of the second half somewhere near the Bourne tryline. With such a big and strong pack Swifts clearly favoured a rolling maul from the line out and after a number of thwarted attempts they managed to cross the whitewash to give themselves a glimmer of hope. With the conversion added the visitors were now 23 - 12 down and with plenty of time left they sensed there was much to be played for.
Bourne's final points came once again from the boot of Evison. Having benefitted from the wind in the first half Evison was called upon to kick another penalty which, although in line with the posts, was some way out against a strong wind. As reliable as ever Evison slotted the points with relative ease.
A full two scores to get level looked too much for Swifts but they hadn't given up hope and were spurred by scoring almost immediately from the restart. Just 26 - 19 down with several minutes remaining Swifts began to throw everything at their hosts forcing them to defend desperately. The tension reached a peak when for the last play of the game Swifts were awarded a line out on the Bourne twenty-two. Suspecting another rolling maul the Bourne pack chose not to contest the line out and were rewarded when the Swifts forwards were penalised for obstruction.
Having kicked Bourne to an unlikely win away at Swifts earlier in the season, and for a general contribution to the game beyond his kicking, Evison was among the top performers on the day but it was Berry who took the Man of the Match award. Berry was understandably pleased with the result, "it was a tough second half but we're getting good at getting a result in tight games. We like scoring tries and by our standards two isn't many, but with Sam's kicking ability we know we can pick up extra points and do the job."
Evison added, "I'm happy I can contribute some points if it helps the lads to a win but the win is the only important thing and no-one's worried how we get there. We're winning tough games at the moment and every member of the squad is playing an important part in that."
Coach Maudsley echoed Evison's thoughts, "The squad is bigger and stronger than ever before which brings with it pros and cons. Selection is getting harder and harder and although nobody wants to be left out it's a luxury that we can rotate and rest players as and when we need to. With a lot still to play for we'll need everybody at some point."
With no 1st XV action for two weeks Bourne will be focussing their efforts on their Development XV in the hope that their ambition for a 2nd XV will be fulfilled next season. Maudsley said: "with the growth of the 1st XV squad and a good group of colts coming through it's important we get a regular 2nd XV playing so that people don't miss out on game time."
Bourne: Greenwood, H Thornburn, Appleby, Harby, Cooke, Williams, Binns, Dixon, Evison, Castle, Bentley, Maudsley, S Thornburn, Lynch, Berry, Mambey, Lindley, Smith, Charlton, Holden.