Bognor RFC put in their best display of the season to win 23-12 at home to promotion-chasing Guildford in London two south west.
Guildford would have hoped for a bonus-point win after the home side conceded more than 130 points in their two previous outings, but on their day, Bognor are a match for any team in this league – and so they proved here.
After a spell of early pressure Bognor had to defend but hard work has been put in by coaches Karl Flinn and Stuart Pearce and some bone-shuddering tackles halted the Guildford attack.
Guildford opened the scoring when slick hands down the left sent their speedy winger over for the first converted try.
Bognor struck straight back, man mountain James Barlow leaving players in his wake as broke in to the opposition 22. Only an illegal tackle prevented a try and Rob Parry stepped up to slot the easy penalty.
After a sustained attack and several phases of great home defence, a numerical advantage on the left looked to have secured Guildford the second try, only for a perfect tackle by Ben Archer to stop the centre grounding the ball.
From the scrum, Guildford attacked with their burly forwards and squeezed over. Rallying words by inspirational skipper Lee Balchin got his side to respond once again.
Jack Tompkins dominated the lineout all day and from a perfect catch and drive Bognor gained a foothold in the visitors’ half. Dan Brock ran great angles and star man Barlow set off on a galloping run to the corner. Only a perfect tackle halted the big man from opening his try account in the first XV.
Dave Sweeney, controlling midfield, released props Graham Broome and Armundus Morgan, who linked well with him to go close to finishing the half with a great try. A high tackle, which resulted in a yellow card for the visitors’ hooker, stopped the South African prop.
Parry was deadly again from the tee to make it 12-6.
All season Bognor have failed to win a second half after getting into good positions and strong words were echoing in their ears as they went back out.
Adam Knight made a crunching tackle and got to his feet and forced the penalty for the holding on the ground. Parry again was spot-on.
Within minutes Bognor had a good try disallowed for an adjudged forward pass from the official who otherwise had an outstanding game.
Sweeney had chipped ahead and re-gathered and his perfect pass sent Brock and Archer combining down the left, with one to beat, the well-timed pass sent Josh Riggall over – but in vain.
Adam Groome set about on a destructive drive in midfield, Barlow again instrumental with the pick and go to gain extra yards. Tony Johnston swept the ball away and Parry threw an outrageous dummy. His turn of pace beat the Guildford sprinter in a race to the line for a great team try. He was on hand to slot the extras.
With the clock ticking down, Bognor dominated possession. Ever-alert Rob Legge set off on a sniping run, his pass to Josh Burgess sent the 17-year-old hurtling down the touchline, his size and power doing the rest as he bounced the full-back to the ground and dived over. Parry again added the extras.
Some great interplay with forwards and backs sent newcomer Ben Fiddler clear. He passed to Sussex sprinter Shane Stevens, who was clear only for his own knee to knock it out of his hands.
After the game the emotion was clear.
Balchin was full of praise and passion for his players as the tears flowed. He personally thanked all his team and led the celebrations way into the night.
BOGNOR: Archer, Stevens, Sweeney, Brock, Riggall, Legge, Balchin, Knight, Groome, Barlow, Tompkins, Broome, Fiddler, Morgan, Johnson, Howard, Burgess.