Bognor’s cup-final hopes are dashed by East Grinstead

Stuart Pearce has plenty of support, but Bognor bowed out of the cup against east Grinstead  Picture by Debra Parry
Stuart Pearce has plenty of support, but Bognor bowed out of the cup against east Grinstead Picture by Debra Parry

Bognor suffered one of their heaviest defeats at home for several seasons as they bade farewell to their hopes of making the county cup final with a 47-8 semi-final defeat to East Grinstead.

Several unavailable players made for numerous changes, with inspirational skipper Lee Balchin and another five senior players all out with illness and injury.

Versatile Dave Sweeney moved to the unaccustomed position of scrum-half and veteran Stuart Pearce took over as captain and fly-half to try to lead his team to the final for only the third time in their history.

Gs set their stall out from the off, using their major weight advantage to drive the maul into the Bognor half.

As they released their backline the ever-improving Josh Burgess used his bulk to halt two players as a try looked certain, but there were warning signs this was going to be a long afternoon for the hosts.

From a lineout in their own half Gs attacked at pace. Their fly-half was the beneficiary of a missed tackle and great handling led to the opening converted score.

Bognor came straight back and determined running by man of the match Luke Rokolalata earned a penalty 30m out. Dave Sweeney calmly slotted the three points.

The home side held firm for 20 minutes with bone-crunching tackles from the impressive Harry Dyer, making a welcome return from injury, and last-ditch tackles from in-form full-back Dan Brock halted several attacks.

It was only a matter of time before the line was breached and from some powerful scrums near the Bognor line the Gs No8 dived over.

Gs flooded forward with another fine attack and from the ruck, Mike O’Connor turned the ball over and Ben Burns showed incredible pace to hack the ball the length of the field and was stride for stride with the visitors’ winger.

A try looked curtain but the unfortunate bounce took the ball away.

There was time for one last first-half attack from the visitors and lovely passing split the defence and their flanker dived over for the converted score. From the kick-off, another breakaway try was scored and the half-time score was 28-3.

After some encouraging words from coach Karl Flynn, Bognor came out determined and a series of lineouts deep in the opposition’s 22 were driven towards the line – but the visitors repelled the danger.

To rub salt into Bognor’s wounds, Gs got a turnover on halfway and raced away for another try.

Bognor dug deep to tackle anything that moved. Lee Thompson was like a man possessed as he made tackle after tackle to halt several attacks but even the Scotsman was unable to halt the visitors as their powerful pack drove over out wide.

This was followed by a rampaging run down the left and a great pass for another try beneath the upright.

Bognor managed a sustained period of attack with Graham Broom and Lee Thompson leading the way, but the big second row was tackled short of the line and dislocated his knee and his match was over.

Bognor had run out of players and physio Marcus Wolf, in the twilight of his career, donned a shirt. This turned out to be a masterstroke by Flynn as the ex-Surrey sprinter showed and great pace and rugby brains to create space. The Bognor backline threw caution to the wind and ran the ball from behind their own posts.

Shane Stevens showed amazing pace to race away, but left his support players behind and was penalised for holding on.

Gs took a quick tap and the impressive Wolf pounced like it was a full moon to intercept a long pass to run away to score.

Bognor need to lift their heads as they host league leaders Guernsey in their last home fixture of the season this Saturday. Why not support your youthful local team and enjoy a friendly clubhouse? Kick-off is 3pm.

BOGNOR: Brock, Stevens, Burgess, Rokolalata, Archer, Pearce, Sweeney, Stickland, Dyer, O’Connor, Harding, Dove, Morgan, Burns, Greenslade, Broome, Tompkins, Thompson, Wolf.