With two good wins under their belts, Bognor travelled to Portsmouth in good spirit but knowing that United Services would be keen to avenge their narrow defeat at Hampshire Avenue in September.
As it turned out the home side managed to do just that, winning 29-25, but only after surrendering a 22-5 half-time lead and then snatching the winning try in injury time.
After falling three scores behind in a dreadful first-half defensive display Bognor could console themselves with the fact their much-improved second-half performance earned themselves two losing bonus points but, having fought back so well to take the lead with just minutes left, they were deeply disappointed not to take maximum points.
US began strongly and put together six phases of good rugby but Bognor’s defence initially held firm and their efforts were rewarded with an early turnover. The home forwards drove hard from an attacking lineout but again were thwarted by an aggressive counter-drive.
The alarm bells rang for Bognor when the first scrum of the match saw their pack shunted back towards the try-line on their own put-in. To make matters worse, US converted the ensuing penalty to take an early lead.
After 15 minutes of soaking up the pressure, Bognor began to compose themselves and the front row of Morgan, Ubsdell and Angelov did well to stabilise the scrums, allowing the backs to launch their first real attack.
Dan Harding linked well and Chris Clare ran strongly for the corner. The stocky winger did well to get to his feet and, when the ball came out, Rob Parry spotted the gap and squeezed through for a great try.
Five minutes later all the good work was undone when weak tackling allowed the US prop to go straight through Bognor’s defence and touch down near the posts. Worse was to follow when Bognor failed to find touch inside their 22, another two missed tackles gifting the home side with a second try.
With the first half almost over and Bognor looking forward to the advantage of the strong wind in the second half, a two-score deficit suddenly turned into a three-score margin when a dreadful mix-up in mid-field allowed US to fly-hack through for a crucial try.
At 22-5 down and seemingly dead and buried some home truths at half-time helped to rejuvenate the visitors and they quickly set about trying to close the gap.
The forwards, second best for most of the first half in terms of the contact area, suddenly upped their aggression levels and began to play on the front foot.
Parry narrowed the deficit with a penalty and then Clare finished superbly from a well-worked back row move by diving over in the corner.
The difference was now just two scores and further inroads were made by Karl Flinn, Josh Burgess and Jack Tompkins before George Castleton smashed his way over, leaving three would-be tacklers in his wake.
With the gap now just two points and Bognor firmly in the ascendancy the momentum of the match had totally changed and the visitors looked odds-on to take the lead.
When the score came it was courtesy of that man Castleton again, the veteran ex-skipper belying his years with a scintillating break from his own 22 followed by an inch-perfect kick ahead to the left corner. Clare still had work to do but the flying winger outpaced the cover and touched down for his second try, Parry’s touchline conversion putting his side three points ahead with just five minutes remaining.
Bognor’s perfect ending, however, was not to be. As US gathered themselves for a final onslaught at a scrum five metres from the visitors’ line, the ball squirted out and Legge was forced to carry over, giving the home side one last chance at redemption which they took with great glee, finding a gap in midfield for the winning score.
Bognor now two Saturdays off before welcoming Southampton to Hampshire Avenue on January 4 (2.15pm).
BOGNOR: Satturley, Riggall, Burgess, Upton, Clare, Parry, Legge, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelou, Strickland, Harding, Castleton, Tompkins, Flinn
Replacements : Barlow, Stevens, Reed.