Any hopes Bognor had of repeating their home victory against Effingham and Leatherhead in October were quickly dispelled by impressive hosts who played with high intensity from the first whistle to the last to record a 58-3 London two south west win.
To dwell too long on Bognor’s latest spate of injuries and unavailabilities would merely add another chapter to what reads like a season-long medical bulletin. Suffice to say, the five enforced changes from last week’s team were exacerbated by first-half injuries to prop Graham Broome and hooker Ben Burns.
Chris Misselbrook made his first-team debut and did well in difficult circumstances, while veterans Roy Sargeant and Lee Williams were parted from the bench earlier than anticipated. Ben Archer made a welcome return from injury and Rob Legge moved to the wing.
The match started with Bognor’s defence looking shaky and disorganised. A good clearance from scrum-half Pat Gibbs relieved the pressure but the Eagles were driving well from the lineout and benefiting from several early penalties.
After six minutes the home side were awarded a penalty ten metres out and opted for a scrum from which they drove over for the game’s opening try. Three minutes later a mix-up in the visitors’ defence presented the opposition with a soft try.
Broome’s departure on the 15-minute mark with a torn pectoral muscle was followed by a third try and, 21-0 down, Bognor were staring at another heavy defeat.
The visitors, inspired by a great hit by Harry Dyer, lifted themselves and a Dave Sweeney penalty gave them their first points.
Despite excellent last-ditch tackling by Misselbrook, however, the Eagles scored another two tries before half-time, giving them a 34-3 lead.
Bognor began the second half more positively and put together several phases inside the opposition 22. Unfortunately they were unable to cross the line.
Thanks to try-saving tackles by Dan Brock and man-of-the-match Harry Dyer, Bognor held out for 25 minutes before conceding the first score of the second half – and that came after the previously eagle-eyed referee missed a blatant knock-on.
Ashley Butt ran strongly out of his own 22 but it was one-way traffic and the Eagles displayed impressive fitness levels to run in another four tries against a plucky but badly tiring defence.
Bognor have a week off to lick their wounds before hosting Twickenham on January 28.
Rob Parry, Bognor’s best player for the past decade, is ahead of schedule in recovering from a hernia op and hopes to be available from February, which is sure to give the team a much-needed boost.
BOGNOR: Archer, Riggall, Burgess, Brock, Legge, Sweeney, Gibbs, Johnson, Burns, Broome, Misselbrook, Harding, Knight, Flinn (Capt), Dyer.