Disappointing end to a fantastic season at Thorney
Not the fairytale ending to the season we hoped for but full credit to all who stepped up and gave it their best on Saturday
Bourne's historic season finished on something of a damp squib with their trip to Thorney at the weekend.
Bourne made the short journey missing nine of their regular 1st XV starters and started the game with three of their six remaining regulars playing out of position, notably backrowers Adam Binns and Tom Dixon moving to scrumhalf and inside-centre respectively. In contrast, Thorney had found some form in recent times and had notched up some convincing wins.
Despite the changes the Bourne side were in buoyant mood and confident that they had an opportunity to cause an upset. In the knowledge that if they were to win, and rivals Deeping do them a favour by beating St Neots, Bourne had everything to play for in terms of topping the league table.
Kicking to their hosts to start the game meant Bourne were immediately challenged defensively and early signs were good with first-up tackles repelling the Thorney advances. Thorney looked confident with the ball in hand but made the mistake of looking to ship the ball wide under pressure allowing Bourne centre Matt Holden to snatch an intercept and cruise in from twenty-five metres out. Taking over the kicking duties, skipper Dixon slotted the extra points with ease.
Sadly for Bourne this was as good as it got. From the restart Thorney regrouped and made good use of a heavy pack working well off an organised scrum half and fly half pairing. Bourne suddenly found themselves missing tackles and the home-side seemed to make yards with ease. With so many tackles being covered by Bourne's second and third defenders they were also unable to put a stop to Thorney's attempts to offload to their unmarked support runners. Just minutes after Bourne had opened the scoring the hosts had levelled the game.
The lack of cohesion in the rearranged Bourne side was apparent and despite their frantic efforts to make amends, the missed tackles and lack of structure was proving costly. Too many times the guests left gaps which the Thorney side exploited at will and to no one's surprise they soon crossed again to take the lead.
At just 14 - 7 behind at half-time Bourne might have considered themselves capable of a comeback but the opening minutes of the second half suggested this wasn't to be the fairytale ending the season deserved. The Bourne pack were visibly tired by the first half on an especially hot day and with little in the way of forward replacements available they were under pressure to see out the full eighty minutes.
With fresh legs in the opposition pack the Thorney scrum became very dominant and they were awarded a long string of scrum penalties on the Bourne five-metre line that took the game well into the second half. Despite several team warnings Bourne somehow avoided conceding for a full fifteen minutes but eventually the pressure was too much and after choosing to take the ball away from the scrum Thorney scored to extend their lead. Missing the conversion the home side led 19 - 7.
Bourne suffered more disruption to their side when player coach Dave Maudsley, playing at fly half, was forced to leave the field after picking up a leg injury. But, thanks in part to an inspirational performance by their captain Dixon, the side rallied together for one final push and, despite the result, the last twenty minutes proved a fitting finish to a fantastic season. Dixon led the way for his side in both defence and attack and his teammates seemed driven to support his endeavours. Thorney, understandably enjoying their moment of glory, were frustrated to end the game without more points and disappointed to be thwarted by a side so visibly desperate just to stay in the game.
It perhaps summed up the game that the penultimate play saw Dixon break through the Thorney defence and make fifty yards only to lose the ball forward as he was brought down by the covering defence. From the resulting scrum it was indication of how much threat Bourne still posed that Thorney chose to kick for touch rather than play any longer.
Bourne manager Paul Mambey, having played the full game in the front row, announced his retirement after the game. Mambey was emotional about the afternoon: "That was a tough game; it obviously wasn't the result we wanted but we knew it would be tough with so many regulars missing." Mambey was full of praise for his teammates on the day: "It's testament to the sort of club we are that so many people were willing to step up and play - out there today there were guys who often end up benching, vets who've barely played all year and Colts making their Senior debut, yet nobody was found wanting in terms of their effort."
Maudsley was relatively pleased: "Credit to Thorney, they were good today and certainly deserved the win. Thankfully the result doesn't matter in the slightest! Yes, we were missing key players, but the side we put out was still a good one and we gave it our best which simply wasn't good enough. Having said that though, I felt the notable difference in the two sides was the fact that one had clearly played far more rugby as a squad - they looked well organised while we lacked the cohesion we've had for the most part of the season."
Dixon, Man of the Match for Bourne, reflected on the success of the season: "We can afford to forget about today, the result doesn't detract from what we've achieved and it certainly doesn't change how good a season it's been! The guys that played today did the club proud - above anything else it's been the mentality that we should play well and enjoy ourselves that has got us promoted this year; it's great that we have players who can step up and take the same approach."
Maudsley, looking back, added, "The lads have grown as individuals both on and off the field and they've grown as a squad, both in terms of ability and also attitude. They've worked hard this season, they've played well and they've maintained their discipline. Best of all though, they've stuck together when times have been hard and this has given the success far greater value. The promotion has been well earned and thoroughly deserved, but the ethos amongst the players is the greatest reward we'll take away from the season.”