Week’s a long time in rugby for Jekyll and Hyde Bognor

Nigel Mitchell helped Bognor to a try, but it was a tale of woe for Bognor at Effingham
Nigel Mitchell helped Bognor to a try, but it was a tale of woe for Bognor at Effingham
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At the end of this dire and almost-unbelievable defeat, Bognor’s long-suffering supporters were scratching their heads and asking themselves how can a side that played so well in defeating Haywards Heath just six days earlier perform so badly against a team they beat at home back in September.

At the end of their dire and almost-unbelievable 50-7 defeat atg Effingham & Leatherhead, Bognor’s long-suffering supporters were scratching their heads and asking themselves how can a side that played so well in defeating Haywards Heath just six days earlier perform so badly against a team they beat at home back in September.

Whatever the reasons, and there were several, the fact remains that, in conceding eight tries, this was Bognor’s worst defeat for several years and one which will leave its scars for some time to come.

The Eagles, as always, started strongly and immediately seized the initiative. They were quicker in both thought and deed than their sluggish opponents and they established a strong position near the visitors’ line.

After just three minutes a handling error by Bognor allowed the opposition forwards to set up a series of drives culminating in the game’s opening try.

Strong tackling by Stuart Pearce and Lee Thompson began to steady the ship but their efforts were undone by their team-mates’ tendency to turn the ball over at the tackle area, an unfortunate and damaging pattern that was to continue throughout the match. A missed interception in midfield allowed the Eagles to score their second try, the 12-0 scoreline putting a large dent in Bognor’s confidence.

Just three minutes later Lee Balchin ran strongly off the back of a scrum and passed to the supporting Nigel Mitchell. The forwards showed control to pick and drive several times before Graham Broome crashed over for his side’s first try.

Bognor’s relief at reducing the deficit was short-lived as a missed tackle in midfield presented the Eagles with a soft try, the most frustrating part being that the move emanated from a turnover achieved just ten metres from the home line.

In fact four of the home side’s tries were long-range affairs, three from near their own line, when Bognor had looked likely to score.

The quality of the Eagles’ performance, however, was well in excess of their mid-table position. They communicated superbly, defended as if their lives depended on it and used to great effect the pace of their wingers on the counter-attack. Bognor’s cause was not helped when Rob Parry was forced to leave the field with a groin injury and the Eagles helped themselves to two further tries before half-time.

Harsh words from coach Karl Flinn hit home and Bognor turned around determined to salvage some pride, only to concede another soft try direct from kick-off.

It was hard to believe that, before this game, Bognor had boasted the third best defence in the league. However, you make your own luck, as the saying goes, and the home side put in a devastating display of running and handling.

Bognor’s forwards responded positively in the second half and dominated both territory and possession for long periods of time. They were rewarded by a second try by Broome, converted by Shergold, and then a typically robust effort from Balchin.

Unfortunately these were matched by two length-of-the-field efforts by the Eagles, heart-breaking for Bognor but to the great delight of the home supporters.

Chris Morgan, tireless in attack and defence, was the pick of the Bognor players while Broome is destined to become a truly formidable prop if he can continue to improve his fitness level.

Before this game Bognor’s most disappointing defeat had been at the hands of bottom-but-one side KCS. It is ironic, therefore, that Bognor welcome KCS to Hampshire Avenue this Saturday and it will be fascinating to observe the response of the players to last Saturday’s embarrassing debacle.

BOGNOR: Shergold, Rokotakala, Castleton, Pearce, Archer, Parry, C Morgan, A Morgan, P Mitchell, Broome, Dove, Thompson, N Mitchell, Stickland, Balchin. Reps: Greenslade, Lang, Stevens.