There was always a possibility of Bognor suffering a backlash at the hands of Winchester following the top team’s shock defeat at Purley John Fisher a week earlier and so it turned out, the home team ending up on the wrong end of a 52-7 thrashing by eight tries to one.
Winchester, firm favourites for promotion from London three south west, put on an impressive display of running rugby which Bognor never looked capable of matching.
The visitors took to the field brimming with confidence and determined to repeat their conclusive victory over Bognor in Hampshire back in September. Part of their current success is without doubt down to an enviable glut of younger players feeding through from their Colts to their first and second teams.
Bognor, on the other hand, looked like a side short of confidence and lacking in depth, a fact not helped by two late withdrawals the night before.
Armandus Morgan was forced to move from the front row to flanker and further injuries during the game meant Bognor had to employ two props and a centre in their back row during the second half, not an ideal scenario with which to defend against the best backs in the league.
Winchester quickly got into their stride and created a clear overlap on the right touchline. The final pass went astray but they immediately made amends by scoring their first try on the opposite side of the field.
Bognor responded through a strong run by Karl Flinn who handed on to Luke Rokotakala. Unfortunately the Fijian, still trying to warm up in freezing conditions, lost the ball and Winchester cleared their line.
A minute later Bognor had a chance to get on the scoresheet when they were awarded a kickable penalty. The chance was spurned in favour of an attacking lineout but the kick to touch was missed and the opportunity to narrow the gap evaporated.
After losing the ball in the tackle for a second occasion Rokotakala finally woke up and put in a trademark crunching tackle on his opposite number before embarking on a determined run. Dan Brock took the ball on but the centre became isolated and conceded a penalty.
After half an hour Rob Parry tried a suicidal chip from his own 22 and paid a heavy price as the visitors gleefully snapped up the loose ball and scored their second try.
Second row Lee Thompson was enjoying his usual physical game but had to leave the field with a broken arm. Veteran Joe Greenslade entered the fray and the re-jigged pack continued to compete well at the set-pieces, driving back the heavier Winchester eight in the scrums and comfortable on their own throw in the lineouts.
In the open spaces, though, Bognor found themselves outpaced and out-manoeuvred, their back three frequently being faced with overlap situations. The visitors’ third try came from their powerful No8 who ended a period of pressure with a clear run to the line.
Brock snatched a consolation try just before half-time after more good work by Rokotakala but, with their playing resources at breaking point, Bognor knew it was going to be a long second half.
Winchester took just two minutes after half-time to score their bonus-point try and put the result beyond doubt, and this was followed just three minutes later by their fifth try.
The difference between the two sides was highlighted by the fact strong individual runs by Gibbs, Brock and Rokotakala almost always ended with the move petering out through lack of support, while the visitors always seemed to have supporting players to the left and right of the ball-carrier.
Bognor showed great character and battled to the end, an unfortunate bounce from Parry’s cross-kick denying Riggall from what would have been his team’s second try.
Winchester had the last word as they mercilessly punished a tiring defence to run in another three tries.
On Saturday Bognor host Old Paulines at Hampshire Avenue (3pm).
BOGNOR: Gibbs, Burgess, Brock, Rokotakala, Riggall, Parry, Legge, Ubsdell, P Mitchell, Angelou, Thompson, Dove, Morgan, Tompkins, Flinn. Reps: Greenslade, Shergold, Wolf.