Having performed well in the previous week’s triangular match, Bognor were given a reality check by a strong, youthful Horsham who beat them 24-21.
Already missing Adam Knight (dislocated kneecap) and Graham Broome (broken ribs) Bognor suffered further setbacks when skipper Lee Balchin, flanker Harry Dyer and talisman Rob Parry also picked up injuries likely to keep them out of this Saturday’s final friendly against Pulborough.
Bognor put themselves under early pressure by conceding the first of several penalties and Horsham showed their early intentions by stringing together five phases. The visitors’ defence, though, held firm.
Bognor worked a clear overlap but the final pass never materialised and the chance went begging. An attacking lineout from ten metres also came to nothing.
Horsham tried to run from their own 22 and were put under pressure by their opposite numbers, allowing Dan Brock to gather a loose ball and tear over for the opening score. Parry added the conversion to give his side an early 7-0 lead.
The home team continued to probe and, with the help of a missed tackle in midfield, they scored their opening try.
Horsham pressurised Bognor deep inside the visitors’ 22, but Bognor’s defence held out and eventually they managed to re-establish a degree of control in the opposition half, allowing scrum-half Rob Legge to score a great 35m individual try.
Their joy was shortlived as another first-up tackle was missed and a simple try conceded.
A second clear overlap for Bognor was squandered and a frustrated Karl Flinn was left to ponder what might have been as the half ended with his team just two points ahead.
In the second half Ben Fidler’s throwing improved, creating a better platform for attack off the lineouts, but Horsham were still a yard quicker to the breakdown and more aggressive at the tackle area. This allowed them to play their off-loading game while Bognor were too often on the back foot.
Lee Thompson did well in his debut at loose-head but the front five struggled against a solid unit, especially in the last 20 minutes after Mark Ubsdell was forced off with an ankle injury.
Within ten minutes of the restart, Bognor had conceded a further two tries.
To their credit, Bognor hit back strongly and took the game to Horsham. Dave Sweeney ran strongly to hand off his marker before feeding Josh Riggall who outpaced the cover to touch down in the corner. Parry converted superbly to narrow the gap to three points.
Bognor set up several opportunities to snatch it but were thwarted by differing interpretations of the new laws concerning ruck and scrum, as well as by a potential match-winning pass from Parry to Jack Tompkins being judged to be marginally forward.
Bognor’s coaching team will be determined to improve their team’s set-piece play and first-up tackles during their last friendly against Pulborough.
BOGNOR: Sweeney, Stevens, Castleton, Brock, Exall, Parry, Legge, Morgan, Fidler, Ubsdell, Harding, Thompson, Balchin(Capt), Tompkins, Dyer. Reps: Costelloe, Mitchell, Riggall.