Leaders show their strength at Bognor

Action from Bognor's home loss to Fordingbridge  Picture by Louise Adams C140348-10

Action from Bognor's home loss to Fordingbridge Picture by Louise Adams C140348-10

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Fordingbridge moved back to the top of the Hampshire League division-one table after a hard-fought 18-7 victory against a much-changed but spirited Bognor side.

The visitors shocked the Hampshire outfit by leading well into the second half before running out of steam.

Fordingbridge are not exceptionally strong in any area but are probably the best balanced side in the league, well-organised throughout and always looking to play positive rugby.

The rearranged date for this match meant Bognor were missing five players supporting England in Italy and, with another five regulars unavailable, the home side were well aware that they had a massive challenge on their hands.

Despite the loss, the youngsters did themselves proud with another tenacious display and some great team spirit.

Bognor received the kick-out and immediately drove well into the heart of the visitors’ defence, winning an early penalty which they used to good effect by kicking into the visitors’ 22.

An excellent lineout and another drive should have led to a simple try but a would-be scoring pass was intercepted by the Fordingbridge flanker who hared out of defence and into Bognor’s half.

The cover defence overhauled him to prevent the try and Bognor knew a golden opportunity had gone begging.

Five minutes later, quick ruck ball allowed the Bognor three-quarters to run at their opposite numbers for the first time.

Connor Satturley did well to pluck a difficult pass out of the air before handing on to centre Josh Riggall who dummied his way through a gap and then ran 40m for his ninth try of the season.

Lee Shergold added the conversion to put his side into a 7-0 lead.

Bognor’s set-pieces were looking solid and Rob Legge, making a welcome return at scrum-half, continually put his side on the front foot with some intelligent, quickly-taken penalties.

Just before the half-time whistle, a chip by Legge was taken superbly by skipper Jack Tompkins at full pace.

Henry Strickland was on hand to continue the move and the ball was passed to Jacob Masters and then on to Armandus Morgan who failed to spot an unmarked player outside and was tackled.

Bognor began the second-half full of confidence and were quickly awarded a penalty inside the Fordingbridge 22 which would have been a great attacking position.

Referee Neil Hyatt, however, decided an innocuously- gentle push by Graham Broome on an opposition forward warranted a reversal of his original decision, the end result being that Bognor found themselves in their own 22, quickly conceding another penalty which Fordingbridge duly kicked to gain a foothold in the game.

It has to be said that, while not doubting Hyatt’s expansive knowledge of the laws, his determination to demonstrate each and every one without ever being prepared to engage with the captains or show any empathy with the players led to huge frustration for both teams.

With 50 minutes gone on the clock, it was noticeable that Bognor were beginning to tire and Fordingbridge were starting to come into their own, pinning the home side deep in their own 22.

The breakthrough came when Shergold was unable to gather a poor half-volley of a pass from Legge at the back of a scrum and a Fordingbridge flanker delightedly fell on the ball for an opportunist try.

Having got their noses one point in front, the visitors proceeded to demonstrate why they have been at the top of the table for most of the season. An excellent tackle by Shergold saved one try but Fordingbridge continued to stretch a tiring defence to score a further two tries to secure a well-deserved win.

This week Bognor entertain the IoW in their last home league game (3pm).

Bognor: Satturley, Stevens, Riggall, Burgess, Clare, Shergold, Legge, Morgan, Broome, Angelov, Masters, Strickland, Groome, Castleton, Tompkins. Reps: Mitchell, Smith, Hunt.