Bognor’s hopes of avoiding relegation from London three south west took a massive blow when they let themselves down in a disastrous opening 20 minutes away to Sandown and Shanklin.
During that time the rejuvenated Islanders scored four unanswered tries and secured a bonus point to boot - going on to win 48-20.
The result, together with Wellingtonians’ defeat of Old Blues, means Bognor are now odds-on for relegation - their only, albeit unlikely, hope being that they achieve a bonus-point win at Eastleigh on Saturday while all three other relegation candidates simultaneously lose their remaining games.
The result was doubly disappointing, coming as it did the week after their best win of the season against fourth-placed Ellingham, but the visitors could have no complaints about the result as Sandown proved the better side from start to finish.
Sandown kicked off in excellent conditions and it was not long before Bognor’s pre-match optimism was shaken to the core. Vee Angelou made a big tackle but Jack Tompkins was penalised for offside and Sandown kicked for an attacking lineout 15 metres from the visitors’ line.
A dummy-switch and a missed tackle in midfield gifted the home side their first try and Bognor were 7-0 down in the blink of an eye.
Pat Gibbs responded with an excellent diagonal touchfinder to put his side in a strong position just ten metres from the opposition line. Ten minutes of pressure followed but Bognor could not quite get the equalising try.
On one occasion they carried over but were unable to ground the ball and, from the ensuing five-metre scrum, Rob Parry’s would-be scoring pass was knocked down by an opposition hand just three metres out.
Having survived the onslaught, Sandown could not believe their luck when they pounced on a handling error in the Bognor midfield and hacked through for a 90m opportunist try. Already it was looking as if it wasn’t going to be Bognor’s
Sandown were brimming with confidence and looked sharper than their opposite numbers in all departments but, in particular, at the tackle area where Bognor were frequently guilty of not deploying enough men and suffered the inevitable turnovers.
Poor communication and weak tackling in the visitors’ three-quarter line allowed Sandown to score another two tries in quick succession and take a commanding 28-0 lead.
A shell-shocked Bognor fought back and Dan Brock received a switch from Parry to cross for his side’s opening try of the afternoon.
Four minutes later Parry chipped through and this time Josh Riggall benefited, the winger gathering well to touch down wide on the right. Parry converted both tries to narrow the gap to two scores.
A penalty apiece meant the two sides changed ends with Sandown a healthy 31-17 ahead but with Bognor still looking very much in the game and with the sun, wind and slope in their favour for the second 40 minutes.
The visitors started well enough, Parry closing the gap to 11 points with a well-struck penalty and Paul Mitchell narrowly failing to score in the corner when he was held up over the line.
Regrettably, from a Bognor perspective, that was as good as it got, Sandown firmly seizing control and dominating the remainder of the match.
Once again the visitors were not helped by injuries to key players: fly-half Shergold was forced off early in the second half and, with 25 minutes left, the unusually-subdued Lee Balchin finally left the field suffering from a long-term neck injury. Even allowing for the injuries, however, it was still disappointing that Bognor did not manage to cross the opposition line in the second half, especially as the opposition had two players yellow-carded.
Sandown revelled in one of those occasions when every bounce seemed to go their way and they ran in three second-half tries to put the result way beyond doubt. The much-improved Islanders were by far the stronger side and fully deserved their win.
As for Bognor, it’s on to Eastleigh and one last throw of the dice!
BOGNOR: Gibbs, Stevens, Brock, Burgess, Riggall, Shergold, Parry, Ubsdell, P Mitchell, Angelou, Tompkins, Harding, Balchin, N Mitchell, Flinn. Reps: Broome, Morgan, Masters.