Bognor welcomed fourth-placed Alresford to Hampshire Avenue for the first time and, after a closely-contested game, the home side emerged winners by three tries to nil, 15-0 the final score.
The visitors proved worthy opponents and their forwards were particularly strong in the Hampshire League division one match, enjoying overall dominance in the scrums and disrupting Bognor’s lineouts on several occasions.
The result, together with Millbrook’s defeat at Ellingham and Ringwood, means Bognor move into second place, just two points behind US Portsmouth.
Regular fly-half Dave Sweeney was unavailable and, with training injuries to Josh Riggall and Jack Hornibrook, it was a much-changed backline on view, including Sam Newcombe’s debut at ten.
Alresford’s strength up front was evident from the start and Bognor looked rusty and off the pace. Fortunately, the visitors’ backs never really looked dangerous and Bognor’s well-marshalled defence managed to keep them quiet without too much difficulty.
In contrast, and despite a lack of clean possession, the home backs threatened to break through whenever they got the ball. Bognor’s superior pace seemed likely to be decisive and so it proved, Chris Clare smashing through the full-back after a fine break by full-back Pat Gains.
The half-time talk centred around improving the set-pieces and generally upping what had been a mediocre effort so far. However, a knee injury to Riley Shute and a serious leg injury to Tom James meant more adjustments had to be made.
Unfortunately, James’ trip to hospital confirmed he had fractured his foot as well as severely spraining his ankle, so the second row’s towering presence will be missing for several weeks.
Luckily for Bognor, instead of going down to 14 men through the loss of two front-row players, skipper Lee Balchin put his hand up and moved forward to his old position of hooker. The old warhorse looked not a bit out of place and celebrated by smashing his way over the line for Bognor’s second try.
The result was put beyond doubt when man-of-the-match Gains finished off a slick backs move by touching down in the left-hand corner.
After the match Alresford proved sociable and the return match in March promises to be one to savour.
Bognor take a break from league action this Saturday when they entertain Cranleigh in the third round of the National Junior Vase. All support welcome – kick-off is at the earlier-than-normal time of 1.30pm.