Bognor turned in a poor first-half performance in their Hampshire League division-one clash at Farnborough, but came away with a 27-7 victory and their perfect start to the season still intact.
Arriving with only 16 players, coach Ron Outen was infuriated by the lack of availability.
Graham Broome made a welcome return to the side at hooker and there was a new lock combination in the form of the Chris Webb and Jàmes Barlow – the former starting his first game in the row.
Jack Hornibrook kicked off and Bognor earned a penalty almost immediately. Bognor turned down the kick for goal and went for the corner but a mistake from Jack Tompkins gifted Farnborough the ball back.
Bognor’s defence held firm in the face of initial attacks despite Farnborough’s hefty advantage in size and experience. The home side are well known for their ability to slow down a game and infuriate their opposition – Bognor struggled to keep their discipline and gave away three soft penalties.
Turnovers came from flankers Harry Dyer and Ainsley Howard. Bulgarian Venci Angelov made a superb tackle on the kick chase and hooker Broome gathered the loose ball.
An infringement from the Farnborough loosehead resulted in a fracas – Broome and the Farnborough prop were rightly sin-binned. Mark Ubsdell, a late arrival to the game, was brought on for veteran winger Tom Watson to bolster the set-piece.
With good territory Bognor embarked on their first real attack. Josh Burgess clattered over the gain line and Tompkins barged round the corner from the ensuing ruck. Winger and former ski-jumping champion Shane Stevens was caught just metres from the line.
The gargantuan Webb got his hands on the ball, knocked over several Farnborough tacklers and was held just inches short of his first ever try. Sam Newcombe and Angelov lunged for the line but were repelled by excellent Farnborough defence.
Bognor almost scored again when the elusive Stevens waltzed his way down the field. He finished the run with a scoring pass to Patrick Gibbs but referee Peter Woodward spotted a forward pass.
Farnborough finished the half the better of the two sides. After a period of sustained pressure on the Bognor try-line they flopped over for a score, converted by their full-back.
Coach Martin Broome and fly-half Josh Riggall had honest words for Bognor at half-time. Having played into the wind in the first half Bognor now sought to use the blustery conditions to their favour.
It was not until the hour mark that Bognor really got going. After a quick tap-and-go Newcombe hared down the touchline and Farnborough were penalised at the ensuing ruck. Another beautifully crafted Ubsdell/Tompkins lineout gave Bognor excellent territory.
Webb went close to the line again but it was the ever-hungry and ever-reliable Burgess who rammed his way over for the score. Hornibrook converted.
After more frustration for the visitors, Irishman Gibbs scored Bognor’s second. Newcombe harrassed his opposite number into a mistake. Gibbs hared on to the loose ball and splashed over to score. Hornibrook converted.
Farnborough began to tire and Bognor took advantage. Some slick hands saw the ball moved wide into the hands of Watson but it was the veteran’s feet that earned him a superb score.
He weighted a chip-kick that Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of over the top of the defence then flashed past his opposite man, 20 years his junior. With an outstretched arm, Watson dotted down just inches short of the dead-ball line. Delightful stuff.
The final touch and try of the game came again from Watson. Gibbs scooted round the now exhausted Farnborough defence and the forwards lurched towards the try-line. Riggall commanded the ball and spun it wide to Dyer who gave Watson a scoring pass in the corner.
Bognor will be pleased with the character and discipline they showed in the second half and, with Fordingbridge losing to Fareham Heathens, they are now the only unbeaten team in Hampshire one.
On Saturday Bognor welcome Locks Heath Pumas to Hampshire Avenue for a 2.30pm kick off. All support is welcome.
BOGNOR: Evergreenslade, Broome, Angelov, J Barlow, Webb, Dyer, Howard, Tompkins, Newcombe, Riggall, Stevens, Burgess, Gibbs, Watson, Hornibrook. Ubsdell, Passingham.
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