Bognor travelled to Farnborough with four enforced changes from the previous week’s successful outing against Southampton, having won four of their last five games.
They were, of course, expecting a much tougher outing and they were welcomed by an even bigger pack than the one they had faced at Hampshire Avenue back in October.
Unfortunately for the visitors the end result, despite a gutsy second-half performance by the young Bognor eight, was the same as before, the Hampshire side taking the spoils from a bad-tempered and fractious Hampshire League division-one game that ended 17-7.
The pitch was in surpisingly good condition considering the extreme weather during the previous weeks but the gale-force wind blowing down the pitch was always going to make life difficult for the team facing it.
When Farnborough won the toss they opted to play into the wind during the first half, clearly aiming to repeat their successful tactics in the first game when they held Bognor for the first 40 and then turned the screw in the second half.
This time, however, despite Bognor kicking off with a significant advantage, it was the home side who seized the initiative, keeping possession for several phases at a time and denying Bognor any quality ball. The visitors’ defence, with Jack Tompkins and Dan Harding to the fore, held firm early on to frustrate Farnborough’s driving maul.
Bognor fought their way back into the game and gained much-needed field position through some intelligent kicking by fly-half Lee Shergold.
Josh Burgess made a clean break through the middle but soon ran out of support while winger Shane Stevens was unable to shake free of his bulky opposite number.
Injuries to Armandus Morgan, Graham Broome and James Barlow disrupted Bognor’s flow and Farnborough capitalised on their opponents’ uncertainty by driving over to score their first try. Full-back Mike Reed celebrated his return to the team with a great tackle to prevent the home side going further ahead.
Bognor knew their only hope of success in the second half was to keep the ball in hand and take chances by running from deep but, when Farnborough increased their lead through a simple penalty, the game looked all over for Bognor.
Far from throwing in the towel, however, the visitors’ forwards started to make inroads into Farnborough’s fringe defence and they began to enjoy their best period of the match. Mark Ubsdell was outstanding in the loose while veteran No8 Karl Flinn was constantly urging his young charges forward.
Quick ball to Shergold saw the fly-half speed through a gap and deliver a perfect scoring pass to Harding. Shergold’s conversion narrowed the gap to just three points and, for the first time, Bognor looked as if they could actually win.
With the game breaking up, more opportunities were available to Bognor’s three-quarters - but sadly, poor decision-making once again cost them dear and they were unable to add to their solitary try despite creating several overlaps.
The game became more and more disjointed and the referee issued five yellow cards, three to Farnborough and two to Bognor for a variety of offences.
While he did not get every decision right, the referee did his utmost to control the game and he could do little about the off-the-ball incidents of which both sides were guilty.
Ten minutes from the end Bognor lost the inspirational Tompkins to a severe bout of concussion which required an overnight stay in St Richard’s Hospital. Fortunately a scan confirmed there was no serious damage but his team will miss his all-action contribution in the coming weeks.
Bognor battled bravely to the final whistle but Farnborough regained their composure and reverted to what they know best, their forwards crashing over for their second try to make the game safe.
Bognor will need to lick their wounds and regroup this Saturday to be competitive at home to second-placed Fordingbridge, who chalked up thirty points without reply in the teams’ November clash.
BOGNOR Reed, Stevens, Burgess, Riggall, Shergold, Satturley,Hornibrook, Morgan, Ubsdell, Broome, Barlow, Strickland, Harding, Tompkins, Flinn. Reps: Angelov, Brock, Hunt.