Wimbledon points tally doesn’t tell whole story for battling Bognor

Bognor entertained undefeated Wimbledon in London two south west knowing they faced a huge task to get anything – and so it proved as they lost 52-13.

Injuries and illnesses again played their part with influential skipper Lee Balchin among those having to pull out.

The home side started the stronger and the standing full-back Tom Gelder fielded a midfield bomb and set off a counter-attack.

Great handling by the backline freed the flying Fijian Luke Rokocolata and his devastating run left a trail of would-be tacklers in his wake. With only the full-back to beat a long pass to top try scorer Ben Burns was adjudged forward.

Wimbledon were always looking to play expansive controlled rugby.

Some promising attacks were halted by sound and aggressive defence by the ever-present Lee Thompson and it was a bone-crunching tackle from the Scotsman that led to the opening score.

His tackle dislodged the ball, man of the match Tim Stickland weaved up-field and an infringement halted a promising move. Rob Parry stepped up from 40meters to open the scoring.

The Dons were a threat and a loose clearance was pounced upon. Great interlinking by the visitors back three opened the home defence. Fantastic support and passing lead to a converted score next to the post.

Further ill discipline from the home side handed easy field position to the visitors. A lineout looked to have created another try only for a great last-ditch tackle and turnover by Nigel Mitchell, but Wimbledon were not to be denied and from an identical position the catch and drive lead to another seven points.

Bognor finished the half the stronger. Ben Archer’s fancy feet created a great chance for Ashley Butt on the wing, only for a great tackle to force him into touch. Then a rolling maul was brought down just short and Armundus Morgan looked to have squeezed over on the corner only for the touchline again to frustrate the home side.

The returning Dave Sweeney showed his class with a pinpoint pass to flying Pat Gibbs, whose power forced his way through two would-be tacklers and sheer pace took him round the full-back to score a wonderful converted try and make it 14-10.

Bognor attacked directly from the second half kick-off and gained valuable field position from a great kick by Sweeney. Stickland was influential with a powerful midfield burst, veteran prop Tony Johnston continued with several dummies and sidesteps before being halted, only for Wimbledon to kill the ball.

Parry slotted the three points to pull the home side back to within a point.

Parry failed with an attempt from his own half to put Bognor ahead, and that was their final chance as the Dons upped their intensity and pace to take full control.

Some woeful defending and great handling led to six unanswered tries in the final 25 minutes - a purple patch their coach described as their finest rugby in years.

The home side were hindered by injuries, as Rokocolata (shoulder), impressive Kiwi Mike O’Connor (ankle) and Polish prop Citius Bogdon (thigh) were all affected.

Bognor finished with 13 players, three of whom were carrying injuries.

Coach Mike Kent later described the injury crisis as unbelievable and added: “We got two key players back (Sweeney and Gibbs) only to lose another three.

“When we are at full strength some unfortunate side in this league will get the wrath of this very talented and committed side.”

BOGNOR: Gelder, Butt, Gibbs, Archer, Rokocolata, Sweeney, Parry, Stickland, Mitchell, Tompkins, Thompson, Dove, Bogdon, Burns, Morgan, O’Connor, Johnston, Watson.