Bognor go the extra mile to make ‘home’ advantage count

Pat Gibbs in action for Bognor
Pat Gibbs in action for Bognor

The waterlogged pitches at Hampshire Avenue forced Bognor into a difficult late decision to relinquish home advantage against KCS and travel up to New Malden. But the move was a shrewd one as Bognor chalked up a 33-8 victory.

Having lost there earlier this season the result was far from a foregone conclusion – but the gamble paid off as Bognor helped themselves to five tries and a bonus point to boot.

KCS had been desperately unlucky to lose to second-placed Guildford a week earlier and the switch to home territory boosted further their growing confidence.

They had already seen off Tottonians on their own patch so what did they have to fear against a side that had shipped 50 points to Effingham and Leatherhead just a week earlier?

Things are never that simple, of course, and Bognor tore into their opponents from the first whistle to establish a level of control they retained for virtually the full 80 minutes.

The result went some way to restoring their pride but it also meant they leapfrogged Gosport & Fareham in the table with the Hampshire side still having to face the prospect of visiting Bognor next month.

Skipper Lee Balchin won the toss for the first time this season and elected to play against the strong wind in the first half.

Untidy errors by Bognor at the first lineout and the first scrum turned out to be minor blips as the forwards began to impose themselves.

Stuart Pearce made a clean break through the middle but was unable to retain control when just ten metres from the home line.

Referee Mark Packwood spotted an off-side infringement and KCS were able to clear their line.

Dave Sweeney, making a welcome return at full-back, was the next to go close, a foot in touch preventing what would have been a great try in the corner.

At this stage, the outstanding player was scrum-half Pat Gibbs. In only his second game in two years Gibbs caused havoc in the KCS defence with his sniping runs and turn of pace. By the time the KCS defence had worked out how to deal with him they were two tries down.

Jonny Lang scored Bognor’s first try after intense pressure on the home backs. KCS, upset at what they saw as an unfair decision, responded strongly and, after missing a simple opportunity, their fly-half kicked a penalty.

Balchin ran strongly to create an overlap but was unable to get his pass away and then Gibbs lost possession over the KCS line when a try seemed a certainty.

A second try was inevitable, however, and it came after Bognor’s front row had destroyed two consecutive scrums. Lee Thompson was the scorer and Rob Parry added the conversion to put his side 14-3 ahead.

The only down-side of the half was the ever-increasing penalty count against Bognor for offences at the tackle area, although the yellow-carding of Lang was harsh.

With the wind at their backs in the second half Bognor were determined to extend their lead but they had to wait 15 minutes before Paul Mitchell scampered over to finish off a well-rehearsed lineout move. Parry, in the groove, converted from the touchline.

Armandus Morgan was enjoying his best game for weeks while Graham Broome was reminiscent of Karl Flinn in his best bullocking form – many observers judged that the similarity was uncanny.

The game was made safe when Balchin embarked on a powerful 30m run continued by Lang.

Although hauled down short of the line, the ball was moved to Sweeney and the full-back flew over under the posts to secure a bonus point. Parry continued with his 100 per cent record and Bognor were out of sight.

KCS hit back with a consolation try but Bognor re-established their dominance, missing a couple of opportunities before having the last word.

Chris Morgan, looking for work as he had done all match, popped up on the opposite wing and almost got over himself before man-of-the-match Pearce finished off the move with a well-deserved try.

Bognor travel to Twickenham on Saturday intent on making amends for a lacklustre home defeat in October.

BOGNOR: Sweeney, C Morgan, Castleton, Pearce, Stevens, Gibbs, Parry, Greenslade, P Mitchell, A Morgan, Stickland, Thompson, N Mitchell, Lang, Balchin. Reps: Broome, Dove, Flinn.