Bognor emerged from their home Hampshire League division one fixture against Romsey victorious by 39-7, producing one of their most professional and organised performances of the campaign against a motivated Romsey side.
On a drizzly, muddy day at Hampshire Avenue, Romsey started by establishing territory in Bognor’s half. Only some resolute and organised defence, epitomised by the efforts of talisman Harry Dyer, kept the visitors at bay.
Former pentathlon champion Shane Stevens made a try-saving, if slightly illegal, tackle on his opposite number.
Before the game, coaches Rob Outen and Martin Broome had warned the Bognor players it would take time to wear down the Romsey defence and it was not until the half-hour mark that they managed to cross the whitewash.
After some frustrating missed opportunities, Bognor set a good platform in the Romsey half. Mike Page and Mark Ubsdell made hard yards around the fringes and eventually the ball was spun wide and, in a pre-planned move, Riggall whipped the ball into the hands of Stevens.
Some delicate passes followed from Watson and Hornibrook to release the spritely Jamie Archer, who bagged his first senior try on his home debut by dotting down in the corner.
Bognor were tired but stuck to their game plan and rookie scrum-half Sam Newcombe was next on the scoresheet. From a lineout, enormous centre Josh Burgess knocked over three opposing defenders and then flipped a delightful offload to the supporting Dyer. A few phases followed until Newcombe sniped over to score.
Bognor had found their stride and Ubsdell threw to the lofty Jacob Masters in the lineout and they drove towards the line. The ball was released to the backs and, with the Romsey defence now lured towards Burgess, a gap opened up for Riggall who scooted through to score beneath posts and convert his own try.
With a few minutes of the first half to go, Riggall read the Romsey attack and intercepted a wide pass. The fly-half coolly chipped a weighted kick over the full-back and Newcombe outpaced his colleague to score, when the ball came to rest over the try line. Riggall converted and the half-time whistle went.
Bognor were ordered not to take their foot off the gas and they obliged.
The forwards began the second half with the pace required. After a period of pressure in the Romsey half, Bognor began to gain the upper hand in the scrum. Props Ryan Langridge and Luke Calleja gave their all and this allowed Page to pick up and crash over the try line from No8.
Romsey came back into it after a high-tackle allowed them to kick for the corner. But Bognor were equal to the challenge despite ten minutes of intense pressure on their own try line. Some fine tackles came in from Barlow, Calleja and Dyer until eventually Bognor earned a penalty of their own.
Despite their hard work Bognor gave away a soft try. Veteran centre Tom Watson made a half-break and set up quick ball on the halfway line. Captain Jack Tompkins tried to find Burgess with a pass from the ruck but it was picked off by a Romsey flanker who strolled over the line to score.
Adam Knight was introduced to rapturous applause from the crowd, the industrious flanker making his first home appearance since dislocating his knee on the same pitch more than two years ago. Young Casim Ali was brought on for his senior debut at prop.
Knight rode into battle by putting in a big tackle on his opposite number, forcing a turnover. Bognor then exploited the tiring Romsey.
Newcombe passed the ball wide to Tompkins who fed Page after Ubsdell drew Romsey in with a dummy run. Page weighted a lovely pass to Jamie Archer, who just held on to bag a try double on his home debut.
Bognor’s final try was one to savour. Young prop Calleja has enjoyed an outstanding debut season at the club but departs for Australia later this week, meaning this was his final appearance in Bognor colours for some time.
From a tap penalty, Calleja broke loose and charged forward through what seemed like hundreds of potential tacklers. Eventually he was hauled down preventing him from scoring what would have been his first-ever senior try. Fortunately, he managed to flick an offload to the supporting Tompkins, who lumbered his way over the line as the rest of players celebrated with Calleja.
This week Bognor travel to Fordingbridge in the first of a crucial month of fixtures that sees them play their three main league rivals and a cup semi-final. All support is welcome for the 2.30pm kick-off.
BOGNOR: Calleja, Ubsdell, Langridge, Masters, J Barlow, Tompkins, Dyer, Page, Newcombe, Riggall, Stevens, Burgess, Watson, J Archer, Hornibrook. Ali, Knight, N Archer.