Bognor travelled to Fareham Heathens for their Hampshire League division-one opener with a young squad and with high hopes against hosts who were promoted into this league at the end of last season. They lost 20-13 but came away with plenty of positives.
The game started at a high tempo but Bognor fell behind after three minutes with a penalty for infringing in the contact area.
The restart was chased by Bognor No7 Harry Dyer, who put in a huge hit on the receiver and turned the ball over. This seemed to be his mission for the whole game – his tackle count was immense.
Fareham dominated the ruck area and the referee seemed quite casual so Bognor called for quick ball, which after ten minutes paid off with a slick backs move – and quick hands saw winger Sam Newcombe outstrip the Fareham winger and full-back to score in the corner. The conversion was missed.
From the restart Bognor were penalised again for holding on with three Fareham players over the top. This was a little harsh, but resulted in another three points for the very useful Fareham kicker.
Bognor’s chase was again good, led by Dyer, and from the resulting turnover ruck, Fareham’s No9 was yellow-carded for offside. The penalty brought three points from Lee Shergold.
Bognor were in control for spells and centre Dan Brock, via full-back Josh Riggall, offloaded to winger Sam Newcombe, who cut inside to score a well-engineered try – but the conversion was again missed.
Fareham hit back immediately with a series of forward drives up the park which resulted in a scrum ten metres out. The scrum was held and turned by Fareham and a textbook No8 pick-up saw them between the posts.
After a tackle by Bognor’s No7, the Fareham 12 went down injured with a nasty leg break. This resulted in a 30-minute break while he received treatment from paramedics and Bognor’s medically-trained No6 Casey Brooks. The referee called half-time.
The second half was only ten minutes in when Fareham’s No13 went down with an ankle injury. After a assessment from the medic, it was diagnosed as a break. Play was suspended again for 25 minutes and the game was moved to Fareham’s second pitch.
Bognor’s players seemed to lose confidence as Fareham continued to spoil in the tight and played basic rugby which left Bognor chasing the game.
The points went to Fareham after a poor defensive line saw Fareham’s No2, who had been a thorn in Bognor’s side all afternoon, score a solo effort under the posts which was converted.
Bognor threw everything at Fareham, who continued to frustrate with their tactics and, supported by the ref, looked to slow everything.
Bognor had chances to win it but bad decision making and handling proved crucial.
Coach Martin Broome said: “This squad is young and sometimes naive. We worked hard in training to adapt certain styles of play, but here we lost communication and structure.
“We will work on that on Tuesday but the sense of disappointment in losing will be carried forward into next week’s game. The overall outlook for this squad is so good – with an average age of 23 we will learn from every game. We need to a bit smarter but this will come…”
Man of the match was Harry Dyer.
Bognor host Petersfield on Saturday after a vice-president’s lunch.