Bourne triumphed at Brackley for the first time in their club’s history to maintain their Midlands 4 East (South) promotion push with a 37-18 success on Saturday.
The victory highlighted the progess Dave Maudsley’s men have made this season as their last visit to Brackley in 2012 ended in a defeat by more than 100 points.
Maudsley said: “It was a decent win and we’ll take a number of positives from it, but we were a long way from our best at times.
“Brackley showed for a large part of the game that they’re a good side and they definitely gave us one of the toughest games we’ve had this season.”
Arriving late to find their hosts well into their warm-up, Bourne didn’t have long to get ready and the game was soon underway.
Despite the contrast in warm-ups, Bourne were immediately on the front-foot thanks to a nunber of simple errors by Brackley.
The Bourne pack provided a stable platform at the set-piece and the backs once again showed their finesse.
After a slickly worked move in the midfield, right-wing Rob Bentley appeared outside his counterpart Josh Lynch to cross in the left corner before dotting down under the posts. Scrum-half Sam Evison started his points tally with the simplest of kicks.
Just a short while later Bentley crossed in similar fashion. This time though he had to work considerably harder and, after beating one man, he then showed some fantastic footwork to leave the last Brackley defender clutching at thin air. From the touchline Evison narrowly missed the extras.
From the restart Brackley upped their efforts and finally enjoyed some time in the Bourne half.
With some strong runners and a decent offloading game, the hosts started to pressure Bourne.
Bourne seemed at odds defensively with a number of missed tackles and conceded a string of penalties. Eventually within range of the posts Brackley opted for goal and added their first points of the day.
Brackley’s points were cancelled out soon after though as Evison added a penalty for Bourne with a resounding effort from just inside the home side’s half.
Once again though Brackley came back with some really effective phases and, with a strong pack utilising the ‘pick-and- go’ approach, they made steady progress.
Good recycling of the ball and some poor defence by Bourne allowed Brackley to get within yards of the try line.
Drawing Bourne’s attention to a series of rucks one side of the pitch Brackley then shipped the ball to the other side where they crossed to narrow the gap.
Both sides were keen to throw the ball around but Bourne fell short with their final pass on a number of occassions which limited their momentum.
Despite this the closing stages of the first half were Bourne’s as they camped in the Brackley 22.
Taking it upon himself to convert the pressure captain Tom Dixon found his way to the try-line after avoiding a number of opponents on the way. With no extras, Bourne finished the half 20-8 ahead and looking like the better side.
The second half was nothing short of a battle with both sides well matched with their hard running and hard hitting. Neither side gave anything away and scoring opportunities were limited.
As the game progressed the hard slog from both sides started to tell and players quickly started to tire.
Brackley, boosted by a decent home crowd, seemed to have more energy and continued to ask questions of Bourne’s defence.
Once again the forwards built pressure through their pick-and-go and before long they had crossed for a hard-earned try. With no extras added Bourne were grateful to still be a converted try ahead.
The lead was extended shortly after when Bourne crossed once again.
Conscious that they were not enjoying much fortune with their close-quarter offloading Bourne chose instead to accept the breakdown when it came and then ship the ball wide once they had time.
Reverting to this approach Bourne tied their opponents in more frequently and started to enjoy some mis-matches out wide.
Some sharp handling from fly-half Drew Castle allowed centre Sam Thornburn to coast in from the 22. Evison was on target once again to make it 27-13.
Brackley weren’t done though and immediately clawed another try back in the same fashion they had previously.
Only a couple of scores behind with plenty of time Brackley sensed a comeback and once again lifted their efforts.
Bourne endured serious pressure for a long period of time and repeatedly squandered opportunities to clear their lines, inviting Brackley to keep coming back at them.
Finally finding their defensive structure though Bourne kept the hosts at bay and eventually they worked their way into the Brackley half.
Winning a pentalty just inside the Brackley half, Evison did everything but seal the game with one of the kicks of the season.
Bourne finished the game in a much smarter way than they had played for much of it, choosing to keep the ball rather than kick to the Brackley back three who made use of their dynamic full-back.
With ball in hand. Bourne full-back Jack Berry also enjoyed a chance to make some yards as did Castle.
The Bourne pack did their fair share as well with the front row of Chris Greenwood, Harry Thornburn and Jake Appleby putting in decent shifts.
Second row Andrew Brown contributed well after returning from injury and the Bourne back row were as good as ever.
But it was the backs that cemented the win when centre Thornburn crossed once again in the final minutes.
Captain Dixon commented: “It’s a hard place to come to and on their day Brackley are a good side.
“They put up a real fight and made us work hard for the win. We weren’t great at times but the mistakes were simple and hopefully easy to fix.”
With Deeping also winning at the weekend, the battle for second place in the league couldn’t be tighter and may well come down to the derby game on March 3.
Bourne: Greenwood, H Thornburn, Appleby, Harby, Brown, Williams, Binns, Dixon, Evison, Castle, Lynch, Maudsley, S Thornburn, Bentley, Berry, Mambey, Lindley, Tito Xipu, Charlton, Lagdon.