Bognor suffered a shock setback and a big blow to their confidence when they conceded five tries to a buoyant and impressive Eastleigh, losing 37-3 at home in London south west three.
The visitors, Hampshire one champions last season, were superior in every department and will clearly be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Bognor will be disappointed with their lack of quality possession and their inability to impose themselves on their opposite numbers for any meaningful length of time.
Bognor kicked off but within seconds, they were on the back foot as Eastleigh utilised the sun at their backs by putting the first ball high into the sky. The home defence struggled to deal with it and conceded a scrum for a knock-on.
Bognor’s front row did well initially and won the heel against the head only to see the Eastleigh open-side flanker pounce on the loose ball as it squirted out and set up an attack. Good support and four off-loads later saw the visitors score their first try with just two minutes on the clock.
Jack Tompkins won a clean lineout against the throw and Bognor launched an attack but, as was to happen on countless occasions, the end result was a knock-on. Eastleigh persisted with a clever kicking gam and it needed two clean catches by Josh Riggall to steady the ship.
After ten minutes, however, Shane Stevens was penalised for holding on and the visitors extended their lead to eight points.
Bognor’s set-pieces were visibly creaking, the front row finding themselves under increasing pressure from physically stronger opponents and the lineouts suffering from inconsistent throwing-in - and the visitors’ back row were quicker to the loose ball.
From one of several turn-over balls at the scrum, Eastleigh’s backs ran strongly to create a two-man overlap and their right winger cut inside the last man to touch down near the posts.
Five minutes from half-time Bognor set up their first dangerous attack deep inside the visitors’ 22 but indiscipline cost them and Eastleigh cleared their lines with the benefit of a penalty. Three minutes later backchat to the referee resulted in an extra ten metres being awarded to Eastleigh. Their kicker was successful from 40m and Bognor were in big trouble.
Rob Parry at least managed to put points on the board with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Matters were made worse when skipper Lee Balchin was yellow-carded straight after half-time, just five metres from his own line, but Bognor survived the ensuing scrums. The extra man told, however, and the Eastleigh backs raced through the middle for their third try.
An Eastleigh forward was yellow-carded for a tip-tackle, allowing Bognor to come back into the game, but their efforts were not helped by injuries to hooker Ben Fidler (ankle), prop Armandus Morgan (knee) and centre Dave Sweeney (thigh). All were forced off and look doubtful for next week.
Brock was Bognor’s most penetrative runner but too many passes were spilt and this, combined with an erratic service from scrum-half, meant Bognor were unable to build momentum.
Man of the match Josh Burgess kept battling away and winger Shane Stevens, after enduring a torrid first 20 minutes, did himself justice, almost managing to touch down after one break and chip.
The last word went to Eastleigh as they snapped on yet another loose ball to score a bonus-point try and then, after Bognor were held up over the line, a tiring defence allowed the Eastleigh full-back to run through unopposed.
With seven first-team players on the injury list Bognor will face a testing time over the next few weeks, hard work in training being the only solution.
This week they travel to Winchester and head Coach Karl Flinn will want a massive improvement.
BOGNOR: Brock, Riggall, Burgess, Castleton, Stevens, Parry, Legge, Morgan, Fidler, Ubsdell, Tompkins, Thompson, Balchin(C), Costelloe, Mitchell. Reps: Masters, Dyer, Sweeney.