Bognor got their Hampshire League division-one campaign off to a winning start, claiming a pleasing bonus-point 38-17 victory over recently-promoted Chineham.
Bognor knew the threat that Chineham posed – the North Hampshire side lost just two games last season. However Bognor have enjoyed excellent pre-season preparations under coaches Rob Outen and Martin Broome and, for the first time in a long time, had strength, experience and depth in their squad.
Full league debuts were handed to Ryan Power and Chris Webb. Former first XV captains George Castleton, Nigel Mitchell and Lee Balchin earned their shirts at 12, No8 and No6 respectively while the evergreen Joe Greenslade brought his considerable scrummaging nous to the bench.
On a short and narrow pitch, Bognor made an error in collecting the restart, allowing Chineham a foothold in the Bognor half. Their initial attacks were repelled by an aggressive Bognor defence affording fly-half Patrick Gibbs time to fire a clearance kick downfield.
Bognor pressurised Chineham into a mistake at the lineout. Hard carries around the fringes followed from Balchin and Angelov until rookie scrum-half Sam Newcombe took control and fed his fellow carrot-topped half-back Gibbs.
In a textbook training-ground move, Clare hit a tight line to barrel over and score. Gibbs was successful with the conversion but the try was Clare’s final contribution to the game as he took a blow to the back. The king-size Josh Burgess was introduced.
Bognor have enjoyed excellent pre-season preparations under coaches Rob Outen and Martin Broome and, for the first time in a long time, have strength, experience and depth in their squad.
Young Jack Hornibrook caught a high ball and surged forward on a powerful run. With good ground gained, Castleton was next on the scoresheet after bulldozing his way through three tacklers. Gibbs converted to make it 14-0.
Bognor stuck to their game plan. Second rows Jack Tompkins and Ainsley Howard combined to cross the gainline with their usual flamboyance. Chris Webb, the 22-year-old man mountain, thundered from the half-way line to the 22. Nigel Mitchell pointed out an obvious obstruction to the referee and Bognor had advantage.
With the Chineham full-back busy gathering his marbles after tackling Webb, Pat Gibbs coolly gathered the ball, dinked a kick over the defence and scampered on to the ball to score. He completed the move to bag a seven pointer.
Chineham grabbed three points from a penalty before the end of the half when Bognor would have to play up the hill and into the sun.
Chineham came out invigorated and scored a length-of-the-field try after a breakdown in communication in the midfield.
Bognor began to disagree with the referee and gave away silly penalties in Chineham territory. Their fly-half took full advantage of the hill with several long kicks into Bognor’s half.
Eventually though, a sliced kick gave Bognor an opportunity. Former heptathlete Shane Stevens dominated the high ball and burst through a broken defence. Chineham infringed and Gibbs found the corner with the subsequent kick. A strong drive from Bognor saw Graham Broome cross the whitewash but the referee was unsighted and the try was disallowed.
Young Ryan Power was introduced for his debut and made an immediate impact with some important tackles and a textbook turnover.
Chineham now needed to run the ball and good pressure from Castleton and Burgess forced a knock on. Stevens snaffled the loose ball and sprung forward to score his first of the season. Gibbs converted.
Bognor scored again after Chineham scored another long range try. Stevens was again instrumental in the build up with a delightful 60 yard run through Chineham’s defence. Webb battered his way forward and was inches from scoring his first try.
Gibbs dummied the ten-man overlap to his left and snuck over for his second. The conversion was successful giving the Irishman a 23-point haul in his first appearance for Bognor in four years.
BOGNOR: Webb, Broome, Angelov, Tompkins, Howard, Balchin, N Archer, N Mitchell, Newcombe, Gibbs, Stevens, Castleton, Clare, Watson, Hornibrook. Greenslade, Power, Burgess.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
Do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!