After a strong start, Bognor failed to build on the momentum gained in recent weeks and eventually succumbed to a lively Old Paulines side by four tries to two and by 27-12 in London three south west.
The home side earned their win through their superior defence and fitness. In terms of chances created, honours were even - but while the home side took 80 per cent of theirs, the visitors could manage only 20 per cent of their own.
Old Paulines kicked off in superb conditions and on a pristine pitch. Rob Parry immediately brought the left foot of Lee Shergold into play and the youngster, playing his first game of the season, obliged with a 50m clearance.
Another player making a welcome return was Luke ‘Rocky’ Rokotakala and he made his presence felt with a trademark crunching tackle and turnover on his unsuspecting opposite number.
After five minutes Parry made a line-break and found Jack Tompkins in support. The second row handed on to Shergold but the final pass from the full-back to Josh Riggall was judged forward.
Bognor put together six or seven phases of high-tempo rugby in which skipper Lee Balchin and Rokotakala were prominent, the latter combining well with midfield partner Dan Brock. Paulines, however, kept their shape and kept their line intact with solid tackling.
Harry Dyer snuffed out the first attack by the home team with a great tackle and turnover. Bognor continued to look threatening and Brock was prevented from scoring by a great tackle by the full-back but, after their best 15 minutes of the season for no reward, the visitors resorted to some bad habits. A first-up tackle was missed, pressure was put on inside Bognor’s 22 and Paulines scored a simple penalty.
This should have provoked a positive response from Bognor but the home side grew in confidence and began to look dangerous in broken play. The visitors switched off unforgivably in defence and conceded a soft try to hand the initiative to their opposite numbers.
With 30 minutes gone Brock made his third clean break of the half but again ran out of support. A poor chase a few minutes later enabled Paulines to run from deep and splinter a lazy defensive line before strolling through for their second try.
At 15-0 down Bognor brought on all three replacements within five minutes of the start of the second half and there was an immediate response in terms of territory and possession. The forwards just failed to ground the ball after a lineout seven metres out, however, and another opportunity had gone.
Pat Gibbs took matters into his own hands. When Paulines kicked deep from their own line there was no visible threat and, even when Josh Riggall and Shergold combined well to move the ball wide to the waiting Gibbs, there were still four men in front of him.
Gibbs, after a broken ankle in a pre-season friendly three months earlier, was making his first league appearance of the season and had been on for just five minutes. The home defence was ripped apart as the flying winger first dummied to kick, then flew past two would-be tacklers before chipping ahead and touching down for a great individual try.
Bognor were not fit enough to capitalise and, as the game began to lose its structure, that favoured the younger home side and they hit back with their third try.
Rokotakala regained some pride for the visitors with a well-deserved try under the posts but Paulines had the last word by scoring a bonus-point try against a tiring defence.
Head coach Karl Flinn was frustrated and angry about the lackadaisacal defence and promised a couple of hard sessions this week in preparation for the visit of high-flying Weybridge Vandals to Hampshire Avenue (2.30pm).
Vandals start as strong favourites and Bognor will have to raise their game considerably.
BOGNOR: Shergold, Riggall, Brock, Rokotakala, Stevens, Parry, Legge, Morgan, P Mitchell, Angelou, Dove, Tompkins, Balchin, Dyer, Flinn. Reps: Ubsdell, N Mitchell, Gibbs.