Having endured a miserable first half, Bognor came back strongly to score four tries in their Hampshire League division-one match at Alton - but the Hampshire side managed to hold on in the end for a well-deserved 32-24 win.
Bognor always knew this match would bear no resemblance to the one-sided affair at Hawthorn Road in December and a much-changed Alton were out for revenge. If they needed any added motivation the home side’s precarious league position, hovering just above the relegation zone, meant nothing less than a victory would suffice.
The visitors were still caught cold at the start, shocked by the pace and intensity of Alton’s ferocious attacks. Within two minutes the home side had put together a dozen phases and earned two penalties, one of which they converted.
Five minutes later, the normally-reliable Bognor scrummage was destroyed and the resulting turnover ball was worked quickly wide for the first try of the afternoon.
A 40m penalty was added to the conversion and Bognor found themselves 13 points down with less than a quarter of the game played.
Mitch Brock responded with a good individual break but this was the only glimmer of hope for Bognor in a half of virtually one-way traffic. Further humiliation came in the form of a pushover try, followed in injury time by a third, this time from a well-worked overlap.
Things could have been much worse had Alton not spurned several other opportunities and suffered a couple of wicked bounces. The visitors also had scrum-half Jack Hornibrook to thank for three try-saving tackles.
Right at the end of the first half Bognor began to wake up, Dan Harding putting in some trademark tackles to drive the opposition back. They were immediately rewarded when Josh Riggall scored a fine try after some slick passing.
Turning round 27-5 down, Bognor’s second half was always going to be more about restoring pride than trying to win. And to their immense credit, Bognor set about their task like men possessed.
Nathan Archer, on for the injured Brock, made his presence felt while Ainsley Howard, replacing James Barlow, began to make deep inroads into the Alton defence.
Bognor were driving forward at a rate of knots and the momentum had swung in their favour. An excellent tackle from Josh Burgess resulted in a kick ahead from Connor Satturley and man-of-the-match Riggall was there again to score his second of the match and his 12th of the season.
The visitors’ scrum began to dominate their opposite numbers, a heel against the head providing the platform for skipper Jack Tompkins to score his side’s third try.
Lee Shergold’s two successful conversions narrowed the gap to eight points and the home side were beginning to wobble but, just when it looked as if they were about to implode, they hit back for a crucial fourth try.
Back came Bognor with a bonus-point try of their own when Graham Broome finished off a powerful lineout drive, Shergold unlucky to see his touchline conversion rebound off the upright.
Alton managed to hang on without conceding any more points and their relief at the final whistle was clear.
Bognor will look forward to another couple of free-flowing games against them next season.
The men from Hampshire Avenue travel to Solent University on Saturday, attempting to avenge their defeat in the first match of the season.
They then look forward to entertaining Hastings on April 19 in the semi-final of the Sussex Shield.
BOGNOR: Riggall, Satturley, Castleton, Burgess, Stevens, Shergold, Hornibrook, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelov, Masters, Barlow, Harding, Brock, Tompkins. Reps: Broome, Archer, Howard.