Billy Toone and Lee Balchin were in confident spirits as the Bognor squad had trained well in the week – and their upbeat outlook was proved valid as the visitors won 35-25 at Ellingham and Ringwood.
Bognor started the Hampshire League division-one brilliantly with a great piece of running rugby and some sharp offloading despite the weather, and forwards Chris Webb and Riley Chute linked up well with Toone and Joshua Burgess in the backs before Chute scored under the posts.
E&R bounced back almost immediately with a penalty just inside the touchline after Tom James received his fourth yellow card of the season.
George Castleton and Darren Bidwell crashed through the midfield and set up a great opportunity for MoM David Sweeney to feed Joshua Riggall. He found Pat Gains, who made easy work of the finish.
E&R didn’t have much in terms of forward ball all game but managed to get the ball through the hands in the back line. Their No11 began to work his feet well and evaded Shane Stevens and Gains to make it 10-10.
Bognor made silly mistakes but Venci Angelov and Adam Knight defended like soldiers in the midfield until one crept offside which gave the home side the opportunity to score another easy three points.
Skipper Stevens made up for his missed tackle with wicked footwork and pace to score after great hands from Toone, Will Cullen and James Barlow.
The second half started with Webb carrying well. Ben Burns, after a long absence, was introduced alongside Nathan Archer and Chris Clare, all making an immediate impact. Archer burst through the oncoming tackle; E&R went off their feet at the ruck and Sweeney made no error with the penalty for an 18-13 lead.
Will Cullen managed to fly-hack the ball all the way down the pitch but did not dive on it. The ball was run down the other end of the pitch by the home side and dotted down.
Top try scorer Stevens showed why he’s so influential with another great score. Big bundling phase play in the midfield marshalled by Toone and Sweeney and executed by Burns and Bidwell meant Stevens could see an open space to slide over in the boggy corner to keep Bognor within touching distance. The conversion made it 25-20.
Another E&R score brought the score to 25-25. Burgess carried hard into the heart of the midfield with Castleton and E&R gave away a silly penalty. Sweeney found touch and from the resulting driving maul, Burns scored. The conversion was good – 32-25.
Bognor continued to pile on the pressure even late on with excellent scrummaging and brutal forward phase play. This created a big open space for a drop goal that put the icing on the cake.
Bognor: Webb, Chute, Angelov, James, Barlow, Bidwell, Knight, Castleton, Toone, Sweeney, Stevens, Riggall, Burgess, Cullen, Gains,
Archer, Burns, Clare.