Bognor 22 Weybridge Vandals 20
London three south west
In this pulsating match the lead changed hands five times - including three times in the last five minutes - before Rob Parry finally put the game to bed with his third successful kick of the afternoon.
Weybridge, lying second in the table, had been beaten by a spirited Bognor team who tackled superbly and never gave up.
A waterlogged pitch the previous week had caused a late postponement against the same opposition, so it was not surprising to see Weybridge, having had to travel to Bognor for the second time in a week, looking determined to continue their successful season.
This time, the pitch was in good condition and there was no excuse for the scrappy start, both sides being guilty of poor handling in the opening encounters.
After just three minutes Bognor conceded a free-kick for early engagement at the first scrum, quickly followed by a penalty for offside. Weybridge made no mistake with the kick to give themselves a three-point lead.
Luke Rokotakala led the Bognor response and made good inroads into the visitors’ defence before a turnover allowed them to clear their line.
The Weybridge loose-head prop began to show his strength both at the set-scrums and in loose play where he led several drives through the home defence.
Bognor were starting to creak and matters were made worse when three missed tackles presented the visitors’ centre with a soft try. The scorer’s over-the-top celebration, however, was premature and his patronising comments were to come back and haunt him before the end of the game.
A wide cross-kick by Parry found Josh Riggall in space on the right touchline but, under pressure from his opposite number, the winger could not hold on to the ball and the chance was missed.
Almost immediately Parry made a half-break and an exquisitely-timed pass put Dan Brock over to open Bognor’s account.
Brock, in scintillating form of late, followed up his try with a clean break through the middle and Parry put the resulting 40m penalty a few feet wide.
It was clear, though, that Bognor’s midfield partnership of Brock and Rokotakala was causing serious problems to the visitors’ defence and this time it was the Fijian’s turn to crash through, only to be halted by a great tackle in front of the Weybridge posts.
After 35 minutes Brock again broke through the first-up tackles and, when the ball was recycled quickly, Parry fed Rokotakala, who finished off the last of the cover defence. Parry’s successful conversion looked sure to have given Bognor a half-time lead - but Weybridge had other ideas.
A speculative kick deep into Bognor’s 22 left Pat Gibbs exposed and, when the full-back failed to clear the ball, an opportunist try was snapped up by one of three chasing Weybridge players.
The Weybridge coaches clearly instructed their team at half-time to keep the game tight and deny possession to Bognor’s midfield.
This they did successfully for the first 20 minutes of the second half, dominating possession and territory by a massive margin. Their pick-and-drive tactics took them right up to the home line on several occasions but Bognor tackled their hearts out and somehow kept the visitors out.
The home front row of Morgan, Ubsdell and Angelou started to get stronger as the game entered the final quarter so, having weathered the storm, it was a question of whether Bognor’s backs would have another opportunity themselves.
The question was answered when some superb kicking by Parry and Gibbs created an attacking position for the midfield runners. Bognor’s forwards, with man-of-the-match Armandus Morgan to the fore, won a couple of attacking lineouts and drove forward. A quick release found Parry in heavy traffic but somehow the veteran fly-half weaved his magic for a fantastic individual try.
With just five minutes left Weybridge hit back in devastating fashion, their big front five driving time and again deep into the home 22.
Lee Shergold stepped off his wing to save a certain try but, when Steve Dove was yellow-carded five metres from his own line, the visitors finally crashed over for what seemed like the winning try.
Bognor’s 14 men, however, had other ideas and Pat Gibbs made up for his earlier error by flying through the Weybridge defence.
Gibbs was tackled on the opposition 22 but referee Ben Bulpett, who controlled the tackle area consistently throughout the game, judged Gibbs had been prevented from releasing the ball and awarded Bognor a penalty.
Parry duly stepped up calmly to slot the kick that earned his side four valuable points.
This week Bognor travel to Ellingham and Ringwood, who lie second but are probably still smarting from last week’s home loss against bottom club Sandown and Shanklin.
BOGNOR: Gibbs, Burgess, Rokotakala, Brock, Riggall, Parry, Legge, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelou, Dove, Thompson, Tompkins, Castleton, Flinn. Reps: Langridge, Misselbrook, Shergold.