Bognor are promoted - without needing to play a nerve-shredding play-off.
They first secured a promotion play-off place with a 59-3 win over Chineham in front of a huge crowd at Hampshire Avenue.
Millbrook’s victory over Fareham meant they secured the title, and automatic promotion, by a single point over Bognor.
But just as Bognor prepared to host Old Freemens from the Surrey League top flight for a place in the London and south-east leagues, late on Wednesday night they learned that the opposition had conceded the tie, giving Bognor a passage to the next level up.
It is not clear why Old Freemens were unable to play the game, but Bognor have now put in place plans for a cup game at Hampshire Avenue this Saturday.
The hastily-arranged county cup quarter-final against Hastings and Bexhill is set to turn into an afternoon celebrating the club’s tremendous achievement. A big crowd is hoped for.
Last weekend, more than 300 people turned out to support Bognor including the majority of the club’s second XV, who had secured their own league title just a week ago.
Mike Calton led Bognor out for the first time and the speedy fly-half was quick to organise his troops. It was his pass that fed young Jack Hornibrook for the first score. Hornibrook twirled like a ballerina past his man then dashed to the corner for an unconverted try.
Chineham were visibly exhausted after a long season so Bognor, admirably, did their best to even the game up. After several silly mistakes Bognor were penalised nine times in a row. Coach Rob Outen threw his lucky baseball cap into some nearby trees.
However Bognor’s defence was as robust as ever. Harry Dyer launched himself into a tackle forcing a turnover. Mark Ubsdell then danced his way through the bamboozled Chineham defence. Tom James surged forward but spilled the ball over the try line.
Fortunately the quick-thinking Irishman Pat Gibbs spotted an opportunity from a tap penalty to bag Bognor’s second score. Calton slotted the conversion.
Dan Brock announced himself into the game by flying in off his wing to smash his opposite number. Chris Clare snaffled the loose ball and darted downfield. The ball was recycled to Joe Burns, who threw a delightful sidestep to make further yards. Calton then sold a dummy and went over for a converted score.
Nathan Archer and Dyer continued to tackle anything that moved. Dyer put in another thunderous hit by the Chineham line but Calton was injured and had to be withdrawn. Josh Riggall came on.
Bognor then turned on the style. Shane Stevens and his fellow winger Brock both made long-range bursts. Jacob Masters made a wizardly turnover and Chris Webb rumbled downfield.
Having hauled down Webb the Chineham full-back opted out of tackling big Welshman Gareth Thomas, who gracefully swan-dived over the line belying the trail of destruction in his wake.
Tighthead prop Webb got a try of his own. The big man powered through two tacklers and then dashed 40m to the line.
Half-time came, as did the mandatory instructions from coaches Martin Broome and Outen.
Bognor were straight on the scoresheet with a ridiculous try. A long-range break from centre Josh Burgess set a ruck in Chineham’s 22. Gibbs, now at fly-half, spotted Brock free on the wing and crafted a beautiful cross-field kick straight into his arms. Hornibrook nailed the conversion.
Brock made another long-range break after another superb Archer turnover. He found Hornibrook in support who finished with style for another converted try.
Josh Burgess realised he hadn’t scored so decided to hit a monstrous line off of Gibbs. The crowd looked on wondering whether he had the lung capacity to sprint the remaining 40 metres and he did.
Thomas finished off Bognor’s tries with another bulldozing run to the line. Hornibrook converted and Bognor celebrated a successful season long into the night.
Coach Outen said: “It’s been a great season but I would have loved to have finished on top of the podium.”
All support on Saturday will be greatly appreciated with kick-off at 3pm. A friendly atmosphere and good rugby is guaranteed.
BOGNOR: Webb, Ubsdell, J Burns, Masters, James, N Archer, Dyer, Thomas, Gibbs, Calton, Stevens, Burgess, Clare, D Brock, Hornibrook. Greenslade, Bidwell, Riggall.
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