Relegation fears are ever-more distant for Bognor

Luke Rokotakala was Bognor's star man against Gosport & Fareham
Luke Rokotakala was Bognor's star man against Gosport & Fareham

Despite a few scares at the start of each half, Bognor eventually chalked up a comfortable 24-6 London two south west win at home to Gosport.

The four points gained pushed Bognor above Gosport & Fareham in the league table and well clear of the relegation zone.

This is probably just as well since the final four fixtures could hardly be any tougher, comprising teams who currently occupy first, third, fourth and fifth positions.

The visitors began strongly, seemingly determined to make amends for the disappointing defeat they had suffered at home early in the season after they had built up a commanding lead. They looked the livelier of the two teams and quickly had Bognor on the back foot inside their own 22, only a crunching tackle by Luke Rokotakala preventing a certain score.

Graham Broome was the next defender to feature as he earned a turnover and a penalty. Rob Parry took a shot at goal from 40ms but, on a difficult surface, the scrum-half pushed the kick wide of the uprights.

Bognor began to settle and build attacks of their own. Rokotakala broke clear but ran out of support and was penalised for holding on in the tackle. Parry kicked superbly for the right-hand corner where his team prepared themselves for the all-important first score. Bognor’s scrum was looking very solid but their normally-reliable lineout was spluttering badly, the accuracy of Joe Burns’s throw-in suffering in the heavy rain and strong wind.

The lack of a lineout platform from which to launch their driving game meant Bognor had to look elsewhere to pressurise the opposition. The breakthrough came when Gosport messed up at the back of a scrum five metres from their own line and the ever-alert Parry managed to get downward pressure on the loose ball without even getting his knees dirty.

Bognor hammered away at the visitors’ line for the next ten minutes without success. Countless errors from both sides and numerous offences spotted by referee Stuart Godwin combined to frustrate both players and spectators. A torrential downpour made conditions even worse and Bognor spurned opportunities for a second score.

The visitors broke briefly into Bognor’s half but a 50m touchfinder from the ever-maturing Josh Burgess drove them back again. Dave Sweeney found the waiting arms of Nathan Archer with a well-placed cross-kick and, although the winger was tackled, a penalty was awarded which allowed Bognor to launch a series of attacks.

Eventually a Gosport player was yellow-carded for killing the ball and Parry accepted the three points on offer. Soon, Rokotakala started a move which ended with skipper Lee Balchin crashing over for his side’s second try. Parry converted to give the home team a 17-0 half-time lead.

Gosport came out for the second half with all guns blazing and immediately established a strong position near the home try-line.

Broome had been yellow-carded just before half-time for taking out a jumper at a lineout and the visitors wasted no time exploiting their numerical advantage. They enjoyed an array of set-pieces and penalties inside the Bognor 22 but the home defence held firm, thanks on one occasion to a lucky bounce but mainly because of ferocious tackling.

Karl Flinn was penalised for a high tackle, Parry was punished on three occasions for not straight and Sweeney had a couple of kicks charged down. More penalties followed for just about every offence under the sun and Bognor were unable to create any sort of flow.

Gosport pulled back three points midway through the half but any chance they had realistically of saving the game had disappeared. Veteran second-row Steve Dove gave way to the youngest of the Tompkins dynasty, young Jack, who looked comfortable on his first-team debut and seems set for a long and successful career.

Six minutes from the end of normal time, man-of-the-match Rokotakala put the result beyond doubt with a popular try and Parry made no mistake with the final conversion.

Bognor have scored seven tries without response in the last two fixtures and both victories were based on solid defence. Bognor’s demanding end-of-season schedule begins on Saturday when they entertain Trojans.

BOGNOR: Pearce, Archer, Rokotakala, Burgess, Stevens, Sweeney, Parry, Morgan, Burns, Broome, Dove, Harding, Balchin, Lang, Flinn. Reps: Greenslade, Tompkins, Watson.