THE margins may be getting tighter for plucky Bournemouth but Budge Pountney’s charges still have an uncanny knack of throwing away their hard work.
Despite their territory and toil across the 80 minutes, Lions were left constantly chasing the game after being blighted by a trio of errors which marked their 12th straight National Two South downfall. It was an all-too-familiar tale.
Seven heavy defeats on the spin followed a strong start to the season before a run of fixtures that should have kept the Chapel Gate outfit clear of danger.
But the run of setbacks continued in particularly cruel fashion. Southend scored in the last minute to snatch four points at Chapel Gate before a try in the final 10 minutes denied Lions a share of the spoils at Chinnor in December.
Dings Crusaders then found a try with two minutes to play to steal the spoils in last weekend’s crucial relegation battle in Bristol.
Unfortunately for Lions, this one was no more pleasing on the eye. The old errors just kept cropping up with dogged Shelford pouncing to expose every chink in Lions’ armour and put away three gift-wrapped tries.
And while the home side touched down three times themselves, the imperious form of visiting number 10 Elliot Bale kept the Cambridgeshire outfit ahead for the most part as opposite number Jack Metters landed just two of his six kicks.
After lengthy discussions with representatives of both sides, the first-team pitch was deemed unplayable by referee Richard Kelly with the match switched to the third-team’s stomping ground. But despite the disruption, it was Shelford who were alert from the outset.
Open-side flanker Danny Hartwell intercepted and found colleague Chris Lord in support who played in Charlie Baker to score the opening try within 70 seconds.
Bale struck the conversion before adding a penalty seven minutes later with Metters’s first miss with the boot, albeit from 35 yards, compounding matters.
The shell-shocked hosts quickly rallied with Karim Lynch denied by some desperate defending while Ben Stewart passed up the chance to score after allowing Scott Chilsett’s pass to slip through his grasp.
However, Bournemouth kept moving the ball and were finally rewarded four minutes before half-time when a patient build-up ended with James Bovett scrambling over in the right corner to halve the arrears.
But the hard work was undone in a matter of moments as, on the stroke of half-time, Shelford’s Shingai Chiwangai grabbed possession from under the nose of Lynch and waltzed through his stunned opponents to score.
Lions had a mountain to climb but hit back within five minutes of the restart when Wyn Roberts’s deft chip and chase saw the winger stretch to register a well-crafted try.
Metters landed the conversion to bring Bournemouth back within five points, a gap that was finally closed when John Peart powered round the left to score just after the hour mark.
At 20-20, the home side were in the ascendency and began to pile on the pressure in search of a much-needed success.
But with everyone on the front foot, yet another pass lingered in the air for too long as Lord took a gamble on a ball meant for Tommy Booth to dart into 60 yards of free space and score under the posts.
The Bournemouth bubble had burst and while the hosts’ efforts in a deluge of rain were admirable during the last 20 minutes, they rarely looked like building enough momentum to fight back again.
It could, and probably should, have been so different as another hard luck story prevailed.
With Lions now 11 points from safety, they can’t afford many more.
Lions: Westcott, Stewart, K Lynch, Chislett, Roberts, Metters, Hardcastle, Terry, Wilford, Manning, Peart, Fuller, Rees (Scott, 49), Bovett (Hennings, 60), Booth. Unused subs: Pollard, Sutherland, Spikings.
Lions scorers: Tries – Bovett 36, Roberts 45, Peart 61. Penalty – Metters 55. Conversion – Metters 46.
Shelford scorers: Tries – Baker 2, Chiwangai 40, Lord 66. Penalties – Bale 7, 58. Conversions – Bale 3, 40, 67.