After a four-week lay-off because of Christmas and flooded pitches, ring-rusty Bognor travelled to Romsey and were delighted to come away with a well-deserved bonus-point 22-5 win in division one of the Hampshire League.
The visitors were greeted by a soft pitch, but one in remarkably good condition considering the previous month of rain, and by a young referee, clearly being fast-tracked for greater things. As it turned out both pitch and referee contributed to an enjoyable afternoon.
Despite their own pitches being out of use, training on the new 3G surface at Inspire Leisure has been going well so it was disappointing when the visitors made their almost obligatory slow start. Romsey looked the sharper side early on, winning a good turnover in midfield and successfully employing several driving mauls.
At this point Bognor’s communication was poor and there seemed little enthusiasm for a co-ordinated kick-chase. They managed to put together an excellent handling move from inside their own 22, only to throw away a certain score when they failed to take advantage of the simple two-on-one situation they had created.
They managed to retain field position and, minutes after the glaring miss, a well-worked back-row move ended with Connor Satturley touching down in the corner for his eighth try of the season.
Karl Flinn and Lee Balchin used their experience to settle things up front while Lee Shergold and Josh Riggall set about terrorising their opposite numbers with some shuddering tackles in midfield. Meanwhile second row James Barlow followed up a great turnover with a season-best performance.
After 20 minutes centre Rudi Upton was yellow-carded for a high tackle and Romsey used the numerical advantage to set up good field position. The home pack drove hard from a lineout and, though Bognor’s individual defence had been sound, it was not sufficiently cohesive to prevent a fairly straightforward try.
With half an hour gone, Bognor found themselves two points adrift and the enthusiastic if somewhat limited home team grew in confidence. A response was needed before half-time and that is exactly what happened as Flinn finished off five phases of controlled rugby with a fine try. Shergold added the conversion points to put his side back in the lead.
The visitors began the second half in better fashion, Mike Reed making an incisive break and Graham Broome being stopped just three metres short of the line.
Romsey hit back and again threatened Bognor’s line with a driving lineout. Shane Stevens saved a certain try with some intelligent covering and then skipper Jack Tompkins frustrated Romsey’s hopes even further when he took two consecutive lineouts against the throw deep inside his own 22.
The rest of the game belonged to Bognor as they tightened their grip and increased the pressure on the home side. The forwards hammered away at the Romsey line and finally the ball came to Barlow who, astounded at finding himself in so much space, did well to control himself and embark on a 20m rhinoceros-like gallop to the line.
With the game now relatively safe, Bognor were chasing the bonus point and it was no surprise when it arrived. Balchin made the hard yards, doing well to stay on his feet, and the forwards spotted a golden opportunity, swarming in support to allow Broome, lurking on the wing, to crash over for the visitors’ fourth try.
Tempers frayed as the game drew to its inevitable conclusion but Bognor were more than satisfied with their day’s work.
This Saturday (2.15pm) Bognor entertain Southampton, who will be looking to improve on their performance at home back in September when they suffered a heavy defeat.
BOGNOR: Riggall, Satturley, Burgess, Upton, Stevens, Shergold, Legge, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelov, Barlow, Harding, Balchin, Tompkins, Flinn. Replacements: Broome, Reed.