Bognor battled to a bonus-point 22-8 victory against Fareham Heathens in division one of the Hampshire League, reversing the result from their visit to the Heathens in September.
It kept the men from Hampshire Avenue clear in second place in the table.
For once Bognor had strength in their numbers. Karl Flinn was unavailable so Nathan Archer deputized in the back row. On the bench, there was a welcome return for Dan Harding after his return from travelling across Africa.
Bognor knew they had to play with pace and tempo. They began the first half with instructions from coaches Broome and Outen not to be drawn into an arm-wrestle as they had against Farnborough a fortnight ago.
Nathan Archer caught the kick off and set off at speed. The forwards rolled round the corner and tried to rumble forward but a knock-on was forced, with a penalty conceded from the scrum.
Fareham kicked for territory and won another penalty when their lively hooker crashed into the midfield. The Fareham fly-half took the three points on offer.
Bognor quickly earned a penalty of their own but Josh Burgess missed the simplest of kicks in front of the posts. With strong pressure for kicking duties from James Barlow, Burgess knows he must improve on his next outing.
Fortunately, Bognor returned the drop-out with the tempo they were after. After some quick pick-and-gos from the forwards, Bognor shifted the ball wide. Former steeplechase runner Shane Stevens fed the returning Chris Clare but he was hauled down just short of the line.
The referee came back for a penalty in front of the posts. In light of Burgess’ earlier blunder Jack Tompkins tapped quickly and fed Burgess, himself. Quick ball surprised the defence and Luke Calleja managed to bump his way over for his first senior try.
Bognor hassled Fareham into a mistake and from the scrum No8 Mike Page erupted down the blind-side. He drew in two defenders and served the ball up to Mitch Brock, who dived to score in the corner. Clare missed the difficult conversion.
Leading 10-3, Bognor realised Fareham could not cope with their urgency. Another quick tap penalty allowed Tom Watson to feed Clare. The remarkable finisher managed to beat two men in three yards of space to score in the corner. To the surprise of the crowd and players, Burgess slotted the conversion from the touchline.
Instructions for the second half came from coach Broome and Bognor were ordered to retain the ball and play with pace. Harding was introduced as Brock hobbled off with an injury.
As is customary for Bognor, they did the opposite of what had been asked. Tompkins and Ubsdell bickered about the crafting of their lineout and lost two against the head - their mentor, Paul Mitchell, looked on with dismay.
This allowed Fareham to gain field position and Bulgarian Venci Angelov was unlucky to receive a yellow card after infringing at the ruck. With a man off the pitch, Doug Lewis was brought on to bolster the scrum. They held firm for a few minutes until the Fareham second row managed to breach the green wall. The conversion was missed.
With a man advantage, Bognor sought to slow the game down. Fareham began to get frustrated, with the referee having to have words with several of their players. Bognor’s discipline was good and, with the lineout now functioning normally, they kicked to the corner from the penalties they earned.
Jacob Masters tackled admirably and soared high in the lineout. This allowed Calleja to smash his way forward to within a few metres of the line. Jack Hornibrook, enjoying a much improved performance, caught Tompkins’ eye and a sneaky move down the blindside saw the young scrum-half feed his captain for the bonus-point score.
Bognor continued to battle until the final whistle and Burgess atoned for his poor kicking by making 128 metres with the ball in hand. Harry Dyer came off the bench and was a constant nuisance at the breakdown for Fareham.
In one magnificent move, Josh Riggall elected to run the ball from Bognor’s own try line. As the crowd looked on with horror, the fly-half coolly fed Clare, who beat his man and darted upfield.
He was scragged but managed to offload to Watson. The veteran gave an inside pass to Hornibrook but Bognor were denied their try of the season by an excellent last-gasp tackle.
Bognor now have a free weekend ahead of them before entertaining Alton at home on February 7. All support is welcom for the 2.15pm start. BOGNOR: Calleja, Ubsdell, Angelov, Masters, Barlow, Tompkins, N Archer, Page, Hornibrook, Riggall, Stevens, Burgess, Watson, Clare, M Brock. Rugby, Harding, Dyer.