Bognor’s first home game for eight weeks - against Old Mid-Whitgiftians - was no classic but a 22-13 win gave them four vital points that enabled them to consolidate their mid-table position in London three south west.
Preparations had been noticeably sharper, the coaches and players well aware another slip-up would have meant Bognor being thrown into
a relegation scrap with four other teams.
They now have a little breathing space but need at least another ten points from their remaining eight matches to be reasonably sure of retaining their London league status. Bonus points could well be the difference at the end of the season.
The pitch was still heavy, players from both sides having difficulty keeping their feet and hanging on to the ball. Pat Gibbs, playing
in his favoured position of scrum-half, made an early break from a quickly tapped penalty. He managed to cross the line but referee Mark Packwood was unsighted and awarded a five-metre scrum.
OMW managed to clear their line when Jack Tompkins was isolated and penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Bognor were enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession in the early stages but, when Josh Riggall lost the ball deep in opposition territory, the visitors counter-attacked and it took a try-saving tackle from Gibbs to prevent them from taking the lead.
Gibbs was at the forefront of everything, a desperate tackle denying him a try after a great run. Bognor were awarded a consolation penalty and decided to kick for an attacking lineout instead taking the points.
A well-worked move saw Karl Flinn put Paul Mitchell over the line but the eagle-eyed Packwood spotted that the pass was marginally forward and the chance was missed.
From the ensuing five-metre scrum the Bognor pack drove their opposite numbers over their own goal-line to gain the put-in. This time the ball was released to Rob Parry and his well-timed pass allowed Josh Burgess to stroll through unopposed. Parry added the conversion points to give Bognor a deserved seven-point lead.
After 20 minutes it was clear Bognor’s powerful front row of Morgan, Mitchell and Angelou were going to have a major bearing on the match. Rock-solid on their own ball, they were able to disrupt at will the opposition put-in and, with Tompkins reigning supreme in the lineouts, Bognor had a firm grip of the set-pieces.
Bognor’s second try also came from a scrum when Flinn fed Gibbs in space about 40m out. The scrum-half set off on a mazy run incorporating cheeky dummies as well as blistering pace, the end result being a superb individual try. Parry made no mistake with the conversion and added a penalty for good measure to give Bognor a commanding 17-0 half-time lead.
The influential Chris Misselbrook had to retire at half-time with a shoulder injury, forcing skipper Lee Balchin to move up to second row, the experienced Nigel Mitchell coming into the back row. Newcomer Sam Donaldson came on for his debut on the wing and front row replacement Mark Ubsdell was forced off with a recurrence of an arm injury.
The enforced changes seemed to disrupt Bognor and they took time to re-adjust. In the meantime OMW began the half strongly and,
despite a good effort by Dan Brock, they scored a try in the right-hand corner.
Bognor were over-complicating matters in midfield and were guilty of several handling errors. Strong running by Dan Brock almost saw him score but, eventually, Rob Legge on the right wing flew over for Bognor’s third try.
Man-of-the-match Harry Dyer was once again outstanding at open-side flanker. Close behind him in the tackle count was Tompkins, equally proficient on the ground and in the air.
Bognor were forced to defend from deep for the last part of the game, strong scrummaging helping them clear their lines on several occasions. To their great credit the visitors finished on top and managed a penalty and a try before the final whistle.
Bognor could be pleased with their second-half defensive effort and they fully deserved the win.
This Saturday Bognor travel to London Exiles, who will be intent on avenging their narrow defeat at Hampshire Avenue in November.
BOGNOR: Shergold, Legge, Burgess, Brock, Riggall, Parry, Gibbs, Morgan, P Mitchell, Angelou, Misselbrook, Tompkins, Balchin, Dyer, Flinn. Reps : Ubsdell, N Mitchell, Donaldson.