Bognor RFC returned to the Isle of Wight and retained their 2015 undefeated record, gathering a Hampshire League division-one bonus point from their six-try 38-19 victory.
A coach full of Bognor supporters travelled with the squad and the weather provided great conditions for running rugby. Bognor obliged with an excellent first-half display, only to take their foot off the gas in the second half.
From kick-off, Nathan Archer took a short pass from Jack Tompkins and charged up the pitch. He found his captain in support but the return pass to Archer was knocked on and Bognor were denied a dream start.
The Islanders were motivated to improve upon their performance at Hampshire Avenue at the start of the season, which ended in a 67-0 loss, and they out-scrummaged Bognor for most of the game. No8 Mike Page had a fine afternoon mopping up untidy ball at the base of the scrum.
Bognor scored a superb first try. After some heavy phases from the forwards, rookie Sam Newcombe fired a pass to Tompkins who moved the ball on behind some decoy runners.
Josh Riggall fed Jack Hornibrook, who committed the full-back and passed to flying winger Chris Clare, who still had a lot to do when he received the ball but managed to score in the corner after a 20m dash.
Man-of-the-match Nathan Archer embarked on another barnstorming run and found the burly Ryan Langridge in support. The giant prop realised he lacked the pace to outsprint the full-back so flicked a delightful offload out the back door to his support. A deliberate knock-on spoiled a certain score for Archer.
Bognor went to the corner and Ubsdell threw his darts with unerring accuracy. Luke Calleja took Bognor forward and came agonisingly close to scoring his first senior try. Newcombe recycled quickly and passed to Page, who weighted a scoring pass perfectly into the hands of veteran team-mate Tom Watson.
With the ball in hand, Bognor are beginning to look like a real attacking threat. However, at times, they lacked intensity defensively and the sharp IoW scrum-half grabbed a try after further pressure at the scrum.
The response from Bognor was immediate. Page picked up from the scrum and went to the blind side. He found Hornibrook in support and the young full-back emulated his idol Sonny-Bill Williams with a sublime offload to Newcombe, who was left with the simplest of run-ins to score.
The bonus-point try came soon afterwards from a magnificent move from Bognor’s own half. Bulky centre Josh Burgess spun the ball wide and Hornibrook put Tom Watson into space. With three defenders approaching Watson threw a magical 30-yard inside pass to Riggall, who cantered under the posts to score.
Bognor nearly scored another length-of-the-field effort before half-time but the final pass was dropped. The young behemoth Tom James replaced Langridge at prop at the break.
The second half was an altogether-less-entertaining affair with Bognor lacking urgency and intensity. IoW scored two tries of their own and came close to earning a deserved bonus-point.
Harry Dyer came off the bench to grab a cheeky try of his own. The energetic flanker was sporting a new goatee beard, which caught the attention of the IoW fly-half, forcing him to hesitate. Dyer capitalised; he charged down the kick then pounced on the loose ball with an inch to spare before the dead-ball line.
Later in the game, the latest in the flock of Archer offspring, Jamie, was introduced. Riggall cleverly put Tompkins through a gap who threw a rather loose but successful scoring pass to Nathan Archer.
This week Bognor welcome Romsey to Hampshire Avenue before a crucial month of games in March when they face promotion rivals Millbrook, Fordingbridge and the league leaders US Portsmouth. All support is welcome for the 2.15pm kick-off.
BOGNOR: Calleja, Ubsdell, Langridge, Masters, J Barlow, Harding, Tompkins, Page, Newcombe, Riggall, Clare, Burgess, N Archer, Watson, Hornibrook. James, Dyer, J Archer.