Bognor narrowly lost 27-21 to promotion-chasing London Cornish in a fiercely-competitive match in London two south west.
The Cornishmen went away with a bonus-point win, but Bognor will take comfort in a losing bonus point in another game they could have won.
Direct from the kick-off, ex-Sussex sprinter Shane Stevens used his pace to hunt down the visitors’ second row and used his power to drive him back. An indiscretion at the ruck provided Rob Parry with a simple penalty to open the scoring.
With the game starting at a frantic pace, Bognor time and again failed to find touch clearing their own line.
Cornish took full advantage to unleash a talented back three to counter-attack.
Great covering defence by second-team skipper Mike Page looked to have saved a certain try, but after several phases and overlap on the left was worked to put their winger in under the posts for a converted try.
Dan Brock showed his pace as great handling by Pat Gibbs and Dave Sweeney released the right winger. A try looked certain only for a great cover tackle by the full-back.
The home supporters, again out in force, could only look in horror, as the Londoners countered perfectly for a length-of-the-field try for their right winger.
The home side rallied despite losing inspirational skipper Lee Balchin to a nasty hip injury. The Bognor spirit made a welcome return and they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Parry added two penalties in quick succession, the latter from inside his own half, to put Bognor within a score of the visitors.
Gibbs exploded into life and a kick tap penalty caught the visitors napping before great inter-play by Jonny Lang, Tim Stickland and man of the match Graham Broome put the home side deep in the red zone.
Gibbs found Parry and his pinpoint cross kick landed in the hands of Brock to score a well-worked try out wide and make it 14-12 at the break.
Bognor attacked directly from the restart and a chip kick put Sweeney into space. His great vision and accuracy produced a perfect kick ahead for Josh Burgess but as the youngster attempted to pick up the ball a knock-on brought the move to a halt.
Ill discipline crept into Bognor’s play as the referee spotted numerous infringements. This gave Cornish excellent field position and as they drove towards the line Lee Thompson was used as spud polisher for the visiting pack.
The ref gave him ten minutes in the sinbin to lick his wounds. From the penalty, against a weakened pack, the Londoners drove the lineout to score out wide.
Cornish used their numerical advantage to create an overlap but a great cover tackle by debutant Dan Harding, just 18, prevented a score. The youngster covered himself in glory with a performance beyond his years and looks set for great future.
The visitors increased their lead with another well-worked lineout drive.
The Sussex side came back to life when restored to full-strength. Armundus Morgan drove in the heart of the Cornish pack and Broome continued the movement with a barnstorming run only to be hauled down just short. Quick ball released the backs and a well-worked move sliced the defence open for George Castleton to score out wide. Parry added the extras to put the game on a knife-edge. Bognor tried everything but a stray hand at the ruck was spotted and the resulting penalty was kicked to the corner. The west countrymen attempted another drive at the lineout, but Bognor held firm and with the danger seemingly diminished with a clear knock-on, the referee was unsighted and their prop took full advantage to dive over in the corner for the final act.
A bonus point takes Bognor further away from the drop zone and last year’s colts are proving invaluable – Burgess, Harding, Stevens and Brock proving they belong at this level. This week Bognor travel to second-placed Guildford.
BOGNOR: Sweeney, Brock, Burgess, Castleton, Stevens, Parry, Gibbs, Balchin, Lang, Page, Harding, Stickland, Greenslade, Mitchell, Broome, Morgan, Thompson,