After a decent first 40 minutes Bognor fell away alarmingly in the second half of their home tussle with Old Paulines in London three south west - and, by the final whistle, they looked a well-beaten side.
The outcome was particularly disappointing as this was a game the home side had realistically targeted as a win, despite losing at Old Paulines in November.
Bognor have slipped two places in the league table and are now well and truly in a relegation dogfight for the second successive season.
They began strongly, immediately stringing together six phases in laying siege to the visitors’ line. But as was the case in November, they failed to take their chances and Paulines counter-attacked and took play up to the home 22.
A penalty quickly followed and, from an attacking lineout, the visitors’ pack drove over from 20m.
Bognor hit back within three minutes when a Rob Parry pass found full-back Josh Devitt in a one-on-one situation on the visitors’ 22. The Ulsterman made it look easy as he rounded his opposite number for Bognor’s first try. Parry’s conversion put his side in front and the feeling on the touchline was that there was more to come.
Both sides threatened for the next 15 minutes, with Devitt and Pat Gibbs prominent for Bognor, but the defences held up and the dangers were quashed.
Midway through the half Parry cleared from his own line to the relative safety of halfway. The initial chase was adequate but, after one quick ruck, Bognor failed to realign their defence, allowing the visiting backs to create a simple overlap and touch down for their second try.
Bognor responded well and Parry dummied his way over the line only to be held up. Luke Rokotakala was the next to cross but this time the referee was unsighted and disallowed the try.
The decision served only to spur on the Fijian and he made no mistake from the five-metre scrum, taking three would-be tacklers with him. Parry converted to restore Bognor’s lead.
From the kick-out Bognor moved the ball from Parry to Devitt who again used his pace to threaten the try-line. Paulines’ scramble defence managed to prevent a score and they were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty for sealing off at the tackle area.
With half-time approaching it all began to go wrong for Bognor as the visitors’ outstanding No8 crashed through two tackles to score in the left-hand corner.
After the break, Bognor’s rhythm was disrupted by injuries to key players, first second-row Chris Misselbrook and later Devitt. To make matters worse the discipline of the home side deteriorated and several penalties were awarded in quick succession. After ten minutes Paulines took a quick tap-penalty and strolled over for a soft try.
Bognor began to fall apart: Lee Shergold saved Parry’s blushes with a try-saving tackle after the fly-half’s pass had been intercepted, but when Devitt went down with a serious knee injury, the visitors poured through the gap for their fifth try.
With fitness already proving a problem, Bognor conceded two yellow cards and were forced to play the last ten minutes with 13 men. Another try to the visitors was the inevitable result as Bognor tried desperately
to salvage some pride.
Five games remain and Bognor are going to have to dig deep and work hard for the two victories that should secure their London League status. The battle continues on Saturday at Weybridge Vandals, who will be determined to atone for their narrow defeat at Hampshire Avenue in November.
BOGNOR: Devitt, Burgess, Brock, Rokotakala, Legge, Parry, Gibbs, Morgan, P Mitchell, Angelou, Misselbrook, Masters, Balchin, Dyer, Flinn. Reps: Ubsdell, Barlow, Shergold.