Bognor beaten - but only after pushing leaders all way in terrible conditions
In the worst conditions possible, Basingstoke preserved their unbeaten run by the narrowest of margins against Bognor at Hampshire Avenue - winning 15-14 on a dramatic afternoon.
Bognor pushed them all the way and the two teams created an almighty spectacle for all that dared brave the weather.
Both teams started off in typical physical fashion, Joshua Burgess and Chris Webb as always carrying hard into the opposition defence, gaining yards with every phase.
It came as no surprise that Stoke’s No8 and No5 would have an immediate impact, fierce carrying and strong defence meaning Tom Orchard and Adam Knight had to have their wits about them throughout the encounter.
Basingstoke were the first to score as immense Bognor guard from George Castleton, Nathan Archer and Adam Groome finally cracked as the away side slid through.
It was end to end stuff as Billy Toone controlled the game superbly with his left boot despite the barrage of wind and rain.
Sean Power and Dave Sweeney began to look dangerous in midfield and Stoke’s defence looked nervous. Unfortunately for Bognor a Tom James yellow card put more pressure on the home side but Bognor made it to half-time only 5-0 down.
The second half was action-packed. Bognor came out flying and it came as no shock that loosehead Webb was the first try scorer for the men in green.
The giant prop carried himself and three defenders over the line in a brutal charge, Sweeney converting to make the score 7-5.
Paddy Burnett and Jeremy Newton-Young dealt with constant kicking pressure extremely well, the two proving their places in the squad are as solid as anyone’s.
Vice-captain Shane Stevens looked magical with his footwork out wide and gave Bognor go forward ball time and time again.
Next came a grim moment for Bognor as stalwart and Bognor legend Castleton was forced off with a calf injury. Harry Stubbs was brought on to replace the No6 and did enough in the breakdown to slow Stoke down.
Basingstoke scored again with their second visit to the Bognor five-metre line, and consistent with the beginning of the contest it was their No8 who carried and scored to make it 10-7 with 15 to go.
Mark Voigt and Dan Robinson were introduced and both soon got ball in hand. Voigt turned the ball over magnificently in midfield to give Bognor a chance to pin Stoke back. To the dismay of the brave Bognor fans Stoke struck immediately from a driving maul – 15-7.
The home side did not give up. Orchard carried well and Bognor built a few solid phases in the forwards. Toone took a quick tap penalty and was chopped 30m out. Burgess picked quickly and fended off an opponent before popping it to Burnett who finished with incredible calmness.
The final moments were as dramatic as any the club has witnessed. Sweeney missed a penalty to win it that was extremely difficult in the conditions.
However it wasn’t over as the away side’s hooker knocked on in front of their posts.
Basingstoke had to defend against a Bognor 5m scrum in the last play and they did so with power and determination, and the ball was cleared and the whistle went.
This was a marvel of a match in horrific weather. Basingstoke took the glory but Bognor left the field with heads held high.
Bognor: Webb, Groome, James, Orchard, Knight, Castleton, Archer, Burgess, Toone, Power, Stevens, Sweeney, Newcombe, Burnett, Newton-Young, Robinson, Voigt, Stubbs.