Bognor couldn’t lift the Sussex Shield – but put up a brave effort when they travelled to Horsham RFC to face Lewes in the final.
It was a shame they couldn’t add a trophy to the promotion from the Hampshire League earned a few weeks ago – but the Seasiders put in a brave performance at this late stage in the season.
Bognor started the better of the two sides. Bognor’s talisman and captain for the day Harry Dyer led from the front with several big hits.
Colt Darren Bidwell started in the second row for the first time and began his man-of-the-match performance with a superb turnover. Mike Calton took the three points on offer to put Bognor ahead.
Lewes had an opportunity to even things up but hit the post with their effort. Bognor’s defence was as tight as ever and they managed to keep Lewes at bay. Lee Thompson, returning to the first XV after a long period of absence, was instrumental in their efforts.
After a period of pressure captain Dyer charged down a Lewes kick. Josh Burgess, oddly, was quickest to the ball and dotted down for an unconverted try.
Great work from Chris Clare gave Bognor some excellent territory again and the ball was spun wide. Jack Hornibrook and Josh Riggall combined to surge downfield and a second try looked almost certain. However the Lewes full-back managed to escape.
Then Lewes mounted an attack. Dyer and Nathan Archer combined to keep them at bay but eventually they broke the deadlock with a well-worked blindside move. The conversion was successful.
Bidwell hurtled after the kick-off to smash his opposite number and force a fumble. Thompson gathered and brought Chris Webb into the attack. The attack fizzled out when the ball went dead in goal.
Lewes exploited a tired Bognor with a quick dropout. Some slick hands saw their No8 go coast-to-coast for a converted try. They added the conversion and a penalty shortly afterwards to take a healthy lead into the break.
Bognor took their usual instructions from coaches Martin Broome and Rob Outen at half-time.
They were then forced to defend for most of the second half. After a Lewes break fly-half Calton was sin-binned for a cynical infringement. Riggall was replaced by Pete Outen after an injury with Hornibrook moving to full-back.
Lewes eventually broke the deadlock after a series of short-range bursts, despite a slight knock-on being missed by the otherwise-excellent officials.
Will Cullen emulated his father Patrick with a fine covering tackle after a Lewes interception to keep Bognor in the game.
When Calton returned to the pitch Bognor began to play. Their big runners, epitomised by the efforts of young buck Tom ‘Jumbo’ James, finally got into the game. Chris Webb barged through several tacklers and then dominated a Lewes scrum.
Lewes tackled well but tempers boiled over and their outside centre received a red card. Ben Burns, usually the most placid of fellows, was sin-binned for his part.
Incensed by his brother’s absence, Joe Burns took it upon himself to score a try. The former Worthing Raider sniped from close range and barrelled over for a converted score.
Lewes saw another red card produced for a stamp to the head soon after. With the scores at 22-15 with two minutes to go and Burns snr back on the field it was game on.
Lewes though got their hands on the ball and put together several well-disciplined phases to see out the game – cueing jubilant scenes from their players and fans.
Bognor, though, will look back on their 50th year with great pride having secured promotion back into the London leagues and come very close to a league and cup double.
Next year Outen will continue his role as head coach while Broome takes charge of the Colts side. After a three-year stint, Jack Tompkins is standing down as captain to be replaced by predecessor in the role and this year’s player of the year Lee Balchin.
BOGNOR: Webb, Ubsdell, J Burns, James, Bidwell, Thompson, Dyer, Thomas, Hornibrook, Calton, Cullen, Burgess, N Archer, Clare, Riggall. Mason, J Barlow, B Burns, Passingham, P Outen.
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