Bognor had been due to take on Old Freemens on Saturday in a play-off fixture for promotion into London south-west three.
But Old Freemens withdrew from the fixture a couple of days before it was due to be played – affording Bognor an anti-climatic but well-deserved promotion after a three-year absence from the London Leagues.
The spare fixture slot allowed Bognor to take on Hastings & Bexhill in the quarter-final of the Sussex Vase.
Bognor scored several excellent tries and their 33-27 win secured a semi-final against Haywards Heath on May 14.
H&B began the better side with their young and exciting backline looking to play wide at every opportunity. Bognor’s defence, however, was excellent with Harry Dyer and Nathan Archer proving formidable at the breakdown and in the tackle area.
Bognor were given their first opportunity to attack after a penalty. Lofty Jacob Masters soared to take a lineout and then set up a maul. Gareth Thomas careered into his opposite number on a crash ball, then big prop Chris Webb rumbled round the corner.
The ball was whipped back to fly-half Josh Riggall, who danced past an out-of-position H&B prop. Riggall drew the cover defence with no support around him. However full-back Shane Stevens, a former 110m hurdler, showed all his pace to get on the end of a scoring pass from Riggall. Danny Passingham converted.
Bognor scored again almost immediately. The back row of Dyer, Archer and Thomas combined like the Harlem Globetrotters with some delightful offloads. Thomas eventually broke and found the outstanding Mark Ubsdell in support who cantered over the line for a converted try.
Another try followed for Bognor when Stevens and Dan Brock combined on a returned kick. Brock burst outwide and gave a deft offload to Chris Clare, who still had a lot to do before powering over the line. Passingham missed the conversion.
H&B enjoyed a long spell of possession but Bognor’s defence was in rampant form. Chris Barlow and Joe Burns continually dominated various rucks and mauls. Scrum-half Sam Newcombe was having one of his best games of the season controlling the game with clever kicks and quick passing. But then it all started to go wrong.
Bognor may have thought their defence was strong, but the referee thought otherwise. For the remainder of the afternoon, Bognor were constantly on the wrong side of his whistle while H&B enjoyed a comfortable afternoon of possession and penalties. From a lineout, and with Stevens in the sin-bin, H&B whipped the ball wide and their fly-half scored.
H&B bagged another score before the break and Bognor began to look frustrated. Coaches Rob Outen and Martin Broome told Bognor to defend patiently and wait for the mistake. However Bognor continued to give the referee excuses to penalise them.
Only the boot of Passingham kept H&B at bay. The former centre-forward slotted two difficult penalties to keep Bognor ahead by two converted scores.
Bognor found themselves with only 13 men on the pitch. Riggall was sin-binned for a textbook tackle on his opposite number and Joe Burns was also sin-binned, although nobody is really sure why.
H&B grabbed another good try of their own, spinning the ball wide through their pacy backs. Bognor’s defence had held firm until then.
As reinforcements came back on, Thomas scored a bulldozing try to give Bognor a comfortable lead again. Passingham converted.
Bognor were then reduced to 13 again. This time James Barlow, nature-lover, librarian and yoga instructor, was sin-binned for violent conduct while Passingham was carded for a high-tackle.
With five minutes to go H&B scored another well-worked try but Bognor closed off the game when Barlow and Passingham returned to the field. Big carries from Ubsdell, Webb and Brock saw them all nearly score.
Man-of-the-match Archer sealed it; the H&B fly-half juggled a pass on his on try line giving Archer a long run up to smash him over the line. The full time whistle went and Bognor secured their place in the semi-final.
Bognor: Webb, Ubsdell, J Burns, C Barlow, Masters, N Archer, Dyer, Balchin, Newcombe, Riggall, Passingham, Thomas, Clare, Brock, Stevens. Angelov, Burgess, J Barlow.
There will be a feast of rugby at Bognor RFC on Saturday as the club host their inaugural sevens tournament sponsored by Grit Gym, Chichester. More than 30 teams from across the south will visit Hampshire Avenue, to compete for three trophies: The Sheiks Social Cup, the Sargeant Carpets Ladies’ Cup and the elite Grit Gym Men’s Cup.
After more than a year of planning, organiser Harry Dyer is hoping the event will be a huge success. “Bognor has a great reputation as a community club and we have been generously supported by many local businesses. Entry for spectators is free so come down and enjoy a fun day of rugby with the family.”
There will be businesses attending, with stands offering various services and refreshments. The clubhouse will serve food and drinks.
Play starts around 10.40am and is expected to last until around 7pm. There will be live music in the clubhouse afterwards.
If you are interested in registering a team and playing, please check the BRFC website for more details. Otherwise come down and enjoy some sunshine rugby.
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