Bognor greeted a new year full of hope as they hosted Chobham, a side who beat them by 40 points earlier in the season – and they ended taking many positives despite a 24-19 London two south west defeat.
Inspirational skipper Lee Balchin was joined Lee Thompson, Tony Johnson, Nigel Mitchell and Jonny Lang on the sidelines and with an average age of 22, it was the youngest Bognor side seen in years.
Bognor began full of energy as they attacked with Pat Gibbs and Dan Brock prominent early on, only the final pass letting them down.
Ben Burns won a scrum against the head, the experienced Karl Flinn attacked the blindside with Rob Legg and his perfect pass sent Sussex sprinter Shane Stevens hurtling down the line for the opening score.
They should have increased their lead when they attacked direct from kick-off. Josh Burgess linked with Adam Knight and the young flanker played a perfect pass to Josh Riggall, but a last-ditch tackle forced him out.
The home side were playing with confidence and style that belied their position at the bottom of the table.
Chobham did eventually get possession and used their burly forwards to trundle the ball towards the try line. Superb defence by returning-man of-the-match Daniel Harding prevented a certain try with a brilliant covering tackle in the corner. An infringement had been spotted and three points were taken.
Bognor attacked again after great field position was gained by the impressive Dave Sweeney, wearing No10. Jack Tomkins, who dominated the lineout, was once again on hand to steal the opposition throw to set his side on the attack. Legge broke from the back and found Sweeney, whose pinpoint pass to Riggall set up the easiest of run-ins from the 30m line. Sweeney added the extras.
Brock was held up over the line, Graham Broome suffered the same fate from a driving lineout and a forward pass was given by the outstanding referee as Brock was clear. But at half-time it was 12-3.
They knew another 40 minutes of hard graft was needed, but the visitors came out all guns blazing and their forwards took control.
Great defence by Burns and Broome prevented tries, but the pressure told when the ball was spun to the back-line and a slip in the defensive line allowed the visitors’ centre to canter under the posts.
Chobham battered away but Bognor held out well.
From a turnover by debutant 17-year-old Ainsley Howard, Sweeney spotted space behind the Chobham defensive line, a perfect chip was gathered by Gibbs and his pace took him away from the cover defence to score try beneath the uprights. Sweeney added the extras.
It looked set to end in another great home victory but Chobham had other ideas and a devastating ten-minute spell broke Bognor’s hearts.
A missed tackle allowed the Chobham flanker to touch down to pull the game to within two points.
As the clock ticked down, a move bamboozled the home defence and set the centre up for the winning try.
Bognor will take great heart from this battling performance as they go to Effingham & Leatherhead this week.
BOGNOR: Brock, Riggall, Gibbs, Burgess, Stevens, Sweeney, Legge, Flinn, Knight, Tomkins, Harding, Dove, Burns, Morgan, Broome, Sergeant, Howard, Watson.