A 20-15 Hampshire division-one home defeat to Millbrook brought an improved performance by Bognor but they will know that, taking into account the balance of possession, territory and chances created, it was a game they should have won.
Contrastingly Millbrook, coached by ex-Bognor coach Ian Neil, were clinical in their finishing and, with the help of some superb goal-kicking, made the most of every opportunity to grind out a hard-fought win.
The ground was soft underfoot but, mercifully, the torrential rain of the previous 24 hours held off long enough to allow a decent game of rugby.
Connor Satturley showed some confident early touches and skipper Jack Tompkins, despite carrying a leg injury, set the scene in defence with a thumping hit.
Ex-Worthing winger Chris Clare, making his first-team debut, followed his captain’s example with a superb tackle of his own and he continued to show his strength in attack and defence.
After ten minutes, the home forwards drove to within five metres of the line but possession was handed over too easily and Millbrook counter-attacked strongly. Two missed tackles later and the visitors were touching down at the other end of the field for the game’s first try.
Eight minutes later things went from bad to worse when Lee Shergold’s kick was charged down, allowing Millbrook to score an opportunist try. Shergold’s response was to put in a superb 50m touchfinder but overall the young fly-half will feel he had a mixed day - strong running, hard tackling and intelligent distribution being interspersed with inconsistent kicking, both out of hand and for goal.
His honest appetite for hard work, however, will ensure he will only improve as he gains more experience at senior level.
Fourteen points down after 20 minutes was not the start Bognor were hoping for but they rallied strongly and again laid siege to the visitors’ line.
Rudi Upton seemed to have earned what would have been a well-deserved first try for his team but the ball was dislodged from his grasp before he could ground it.
Man-of-the-match Clare was popping up all over the place and, eventually, just before half-time, he flew over in the right-hand corner after some good phases by Bognor’s forwards.
Bognor began the second half as they had ended the first, dominating the lineout and enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory. Shergold screamed through a gap in midfield but there was not enough close support and his attempted pass went to ground. Millbrook’s tenacious back row won yet another turnover which ended with their fly-half kicking a 40m penalty.
Midway through the second half Bognor increased the intensity, replacement prop Graham Broome smashing into the Millbrook forwards ten metres from the try-line. When the ball came back Vee Angelov was driven over for Bognor’s second try.
Flanker Harry Dyer was next on the scoresheet with a classic opportunist try and, with his side now just two points behind, victory was in sight.
Unfortunately Bognor’s momentum was disrupted by injuries to Josh Burgess and Satturley, the ensuing changes meaning people were playing out of position.
Consequently the home team never managed to launch another serious attack and the visiting fly-half capped a superb display with his fourth successful kick to secure the win for his team.
Bognor take a break from league duty this Saturday when they travel to Newick for a Sussex Shield game but with four more league games before Christmas, three of which are away, they need to start picking up points sooner rather than later.
BOGNOR: Satturley, Stevens, Upton, Burgess, Clare, Sherlock, Hornibrook, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelov, Harding, Barlow, Strickland, Dyer, Tompkins. Reps: Broome, Misselbrook, Wolf.