Brilliant Bognor end leaders Alton's long unbeaten run
Despite downpours through the week in the build-up to the biggest occasion of the year at Hampshire Avenue, the rain held off as Bognor hosted unbeaten Hampshire premier leaders Alton after the Christmas luncheon - and beat them 30-7.
With a change in management, coaching personnel and a reasserted confidence throughout the squad, the home side were eager to take on the challenge of a side boasting an unbeaten streak running over a year.
The tone was set early on when the Bognor pack obliterated the first scrum of the game earning themselves a penalty. Deep in Alton territory after Jeremy Newton Young found touch with the kick.
Patient build-up play saw Sam Newcombe find Freddie Burgess out wide and he broke through to dot down in the corner. Strong winds forced the ball wide from the conversion attempt.
Chris Webb was fed the ball and, in typical fashion, he bulldozed upfield. Support came and throught the phases the Bognor forwards surged forward with intensity. It wasn’t long before Webb was cruising through to increase his personal try tally, 10-0.
Alton found some momentum and persistence in attack lead to them scoring out wide, an impressive conversion from the touchline followed to add the extras. It was 10-7 and all to play for.
Bognor’s aggressive defence caused errors in the Alton ranks and Joe Benjamin and co continued to relish the opportunity to prove their dominance at scrum time. Another scrum penalty awarded and Newton Young stepped up to stretch the lead to 13-7.
With little to offer in attack, Alton resorted to kicking possession away; Chris Hay, in the form of his life, on the receiving end and pinning them back with superb tactical kicking.
The half-time whistle blew with the score 13-7 and it was evident that all at Hampshire Avenue believed they would be witnessing a spectacular upset in the league.
Playing with the same urgency as the first half, Bognor were defending in Alton territory. Led by Lee Balchin, Darren Bidwell and Josh Burgess, ferocious tackling forced Alton to kick under pressure and a charge down by winger Ben Luxton was regathered allowing him to hurry under the posts and score. The conversion made it 20-7.
A combination of physicality and pace came as Tom James, Luke Inkle and Mike Matafwali were introduced from the bench. Inkle and James made an immediate impact, offering powerful ball carrying and tackling.
An unfamiliar centre partnership of Nathan Archer and debutant Max Molyneaux showed promise for the future contributing with creative attacking and well-disciplined defence. Molyneaux was also a constant threat at the breakdown.
James was next on the scoreboard following great build-up play, again led by the forwards. An explosive drive took the score to 25-7.
Disgraceful scenes followed as Shaun Bailey’s tremendous performance was halted when an opposition player threw several unexpected punches and another stamped on a player. James’s retaliation resulted in his sending-off. At this point Alton’s frustrations were evident and what had been a fierce but fair battle was tarnished.
The home team maintained focus and Shane Stevens led the pack to propel upfield. Several progressive phases later George Castleton snuck through to add another five points to top off a great performance.
Alton continued to try all they could to find a consolation and in the dying moments when they seemed to have an opportunity out wide, they were rejected when Molyneaux made another vital turn over at the breakdown. Newton Young kicked into touch and the whistle blew.
A 30-7 bonus point win for the home side was a clear statement made to the league leaders and all in the division.
The rejuvenated squad travel to Havant on Saturday for their last outing of 2019.
Bognor: Webb, Bailey, Benjamin, Stevens, Bidwell, Balchin, Castleton, Burgess, Newcombe, Newton Young, Burgess, Archer, Molyneaux, Luxton, Hay, James, Inkle, Matafwali.