Bognor gave themselves a fighting chance to avoid relegation from London three south west with a resounding 60-3 home win over fourth-placed Ellingham, which completed the double.
Their seven wins in this league to date ironically include victories over three of the top four teams but in between, they
have slipped up badly against the bottom clubs and their position remains perilous.
In simple terms Bognor need to win their last two matches, both away and against opposition to whom they have already lost at home, if they are to avoid slipping out of the London leagues next season.
Skipper Lee Balchin, leading his side out for the last time at home, started like a man possessed, taking the ball direct from kick-out and setting out on a 60m run, scattering would-be tacklers left and right. Unfortunately he failed to spot Josh Devitt screaming up in support on his outside and he was tackled two metres short of the line, the ball ending up in touch.
The pressure was maintained and, as Ellingham struggled to keep their line intact, their flanker was yellow-carded for a professional foul.
Eventually the visitors’ defence cracked when Lee Shergold found Devitt, who stepped the last defender to touch down for the first try. Shergold added the conversion points and Bognor had enjoyed the perfect start.
The home side continued to dominate territory and possession but a combination of indiscipline at the tackle area and poor accuracy meant they were unable to capitalise on their clear superiority for almost the whole of the rest of the first half.
The visitors kicked a simple penalty for one of many offences and the tension running through the Bognor side became evident as
they continually ignored overlaps and took wrong options.
Scrum-half Pat Gibbs broke from halfway and, ignoring Devitt on the outside, backed himself for pace as he streaked to the posts, only to be overhauled a metre short.
Jack Tompkins was next to be thwarted just the wrong side of the try-line but, with Bognor’s set-pieces looking increasingly comfortable, it seemed a matter of time before the next score.
Three minutes before half-time Balchin ignored three simple penalty points on offerand chose instead to kick for touch and the chance of a driving lineout.
The initial drive was halted but the ball came back quickly, allowing Gibbs to feed Devitt, who went over for his second try, converted once again by Shergold.
There was time for prop Vee Angelou to be yellow-carded and this allowed Ellingham to mount their first serious attacks of the half. Some fierce tackling by Dan Harding, making a welcome return to first-team rugby, helped keep the visitors out
and preserve the 11-point lead.
Strong words from player-coach Karl Flinn at half-time led to an immediate improvement in discipline and a corresponding decrease in costly penalties. The next 20minutes saw Bognor consolidate their lead with two Shergold penalties but no-
one could have predicted what was about to happen next.
Dan Brock made a clean break and off-loaded to Devitt, who was a hair’s breadth away from his third try, but that was the last near-miss of the match as Bognor proceeded to put together some devastating handling, resulting in another six tries.
Man-of-the-match Balchin, having his best game of the season, finished off a move involving seven players. The skipper then
turned provider as he linked with Jack Tompkins, who in turn gave a scoring pass to Josh Burgess and, with the game now in the bag, Bognor’s players visibly relaxed and began to display the sort of confidence and skill that has been in such short supply for much of the season.
Ulster full-back Devitt finally achieved his well-deserved hat-trick before the floodgates opened to allow further tries from Gibbs, Shane Stevens and Riggall. Shergold blotted his copybook by missing one simple conversion from the touchline but the youngster finished with a personal tally of 20 points and he looks well-placed to assume the mantle vacated by Rob Parry when the veteran finally hangs up his boots next season.
It remains to be seen whether or not this was too little, too late, but whatever the next two weeks bring, this was a welcome glimpse of happier times to come next year.
This week Bognor begin their quest for survival when they travel to Sandown, aiming to avenge their home defeat in January.
BOGNOR: Devitt, Stevens, Burgess, Brock, Legge, Shergold, Gibbs, Ubsdell, P Mitchell, Angelou, Tompkins, Harding, Balchin, N Mitchell, Flinn. Reps: Broome, Masters, Riggall.