Rugby: Brilliant Bognor give ’em ’Ell

Without doubt, a bonus-point 31-18 win at Ellingham and Ringwood was both Bognor’s biggest shock and their greatest achievement of the London three south west season to date.

Having beaten high-flying Weybridge a week earlier Bognor were unable to put out the same side against second-placed Ellingham & Ringwood, with several players were injured or unavailable.

The problems exacerbated during the week to the point where the last withdrawals on Saturday morning through a sickness bug left Bognor with just four players from the previous week’s starting XV.

Supporters made their way along the A27 to Ringwood more in hope than in expectation - Bognor’s last away league win was in March 2010 against Twickenham - but they ended up witnessing a truly memorable performance from Bognor, full of passion, commitment and no mean level of skill.

Veteran Tony Johnson volunteered to cover the bench but there were no replacements - injuries had been banned because physio Marcus Wolf was playing on the wing himself.

Bognor began strongly and a clever kick from skipper Rob Parry, playing at scrum-half, almost found Wolf, only an unlucky bounce preventing the visitors from taking an early lead. Parry hit a post with a 40m penalty attempt before the home team woke up and began to exert pressure.

Bognor’s defence was solid and good pressure in midfield allowed Dan Brock to intercept a pass and race the length of the field for the opening score.

The visitors began to build good field positions inside the Ringwood 22. After 12 minutes another Parry chip was plucked out the air by fly-half Lee Sherwood who showed quick feet to beat the last defender on his way to the line. Parry converted from the touchline to give his side a shock 14-point lead.

Ringwood clawed back a penalty - one of about 60 awarded during the afternoon by an officious referee - but Bognor were good value for their lead.

But they could not press home their advantage, even when the opposition were reduced to 13 players, two home forwards having been yellow-carded in quick succession.

It was left to Parry to extend the lead with a superb 48m penalty but the half ended with Ringwood settling for a penalty of their own after failing to breach Bognor’s defence during a five-minute all-out onslaught.

With an 11-point lead in the bag there was a distinct feeling at half-time that this was going to be an opportunity too good to miss, and it took just four minutes of the second half for Bognor’s confidence to grow.

Brock made a powerful run deep into the home 22 and quick ruck ball allowed Parry enough space to dummy his way over for a try which he converted himself.

At 24-6 down the home side came to life and began to exert real pressure inside Bognor’s 22. The visitors’ task was not made easier when the referee decided to issue yellow cards to the outstanding Chris Misselbrook and the veteran Nigel Mitchell. Despite this, Bognor’s defence, led by Harry Dyer, refused to yield.

Just ten minutes remained on the clock when man-of-the-match Brock put the game to bed with a scintillating 40m run in which he beat four players. Parry added the points to give his side an unassailable 25-point lead.

With Mitchell still in the bin and Bognor without the luxury of a bench, the visitors’ legs tired and Ringwood ran in two consolation tries.

As the whistle went the Bognor players celebrated an excellent win and, with several established players available again thi week, the coaches face some tough selection decisions.

On Saturday Bognor will take nothing for granted against Sandown & Shanklin – a club with great spirit. A cracking game of rugby is in prospect at Hampshire Avenue (2.15pm).

BOGNOR: Burgess, Wolf, Riggall, Brock, Stevens, Shergold, Parry, Greenslade, Ubsdell, Angelou, Misselbrook, Masters, Morgan, Dyer, Mitchell. Rep: Johnson.

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