Bognor put together their best display of the season in front of a big partisan crowd against Old Reigatians at Hampshire Avenue – only to come unstuck 29-7 against third-placed Old Reigations in a tough, free-flowing London two south west game.
With most injuries and unavailability a thing of the past, coach Mike Kent named his season’s strongest squad.
They went into the game with confidence and the game started with good lineout work by Jack Tompkins and Nigel Mitchell providing a great platform to attack. From the set-piece the Bognor pack drove and gained valuable territory for their much-changed back-line to attack. The return of scrum-half Rob Legge encouraged a free-flowing game with quick service for the backs. After five minutes of pressure, skipper Lee Balchin made inroads and bust several tackles. With the ORs full-back to beat he offloaded to man-of-the-match Ben Burns, only for the ball to bounce away.
From the scrum, Burns sent Josh Riggall through a hole and his pass left Dave Sweeney to dive over unopposed.
Dan Brock and Pat Gibbs linked out wide and looking to send Ben Archer away. A perfect tackle dislodged the ball and the visitors wasted no time in the counter-attack and their winger soared away to score against the run of play.
Again, Bognor were their own worst enemy. A poor clearance kick was pounced on and sloppy defending enhanced the break and the centre had a clear run to the try line.
The home side finished the half the stronger but two failed penalty attempts hindered them. As half-time approached another great chance went begging, Jonny Lang turning over possession to allow Lee Thompson to make inroads.
Quick hands opened a gap for Gibbs to burst through and the ever-present Burns was on his shoulder, but a low pass again went to ground, leaving Bognor trailing 12-7 at the break.
Bognor will be hard-pushed to play a better second half all season than the one they managed here, but the ORs defence was sound.
Slick hands in midfield by Sweeney and Gibbs sent Brock hurtling away but strong tackling prevented him grounding the ball and ORs counter-attacked brilliantly.
Their flying winger outstripped the defence and great offloads and support saw them score out wide.
After several minutes of attacking, Bognor were again sucker-punched. Archer looked to attack but as he passed to Brock, the visitors’ flanker intercepted to run unopposed from 50m to score.
Archer’s ‘try’ was pulled back for a forward pass. Balchin and Armundus Morgan were both held up over the line and a perfect cross-kick bounced into touch with the try line begging.
The final score did not reflect an outstanding and even game but this display could kick-start Bognor’s season.
BOGNOR: Brock, Archer, Gibbs, Sweeney, Riggall, Parry, Legge, Balchin, Lang, Mitchell, Tompkins, Thompson, Citriue, Burns, Morgan, Broome, Butt, Barlow.
Bognor travel to Guildford on Saturday. There’s room on the coach for fans – it leaves at 11.30am. Contact Andy Sweeney.