Bognor kicked off their league campaign with a 48-35 home defeat to Tottonians, a side who comprehensively beat them in the final fixture of last season.
But the hosts can take many positives from this opening display as they scored a four-try bonus point, but they were disappointed to concede so many in return.
New head coach Mike Kent has changed the style and outlook of the home side and it showed in an outstanding 30-minute period during the first half, where the home side scored 28 points playing the best rugby they had played for many a year.
Bognor set their stall out and pressured the visitors into early mistakes. The powerhouse back row of Karl Flynn, skipper Lee Balchin and burly Jonny Lang almost combined perfectly for the opening score, only to see the ball go loose at the last second.
Tottonians added to the excitement with pacy backs and slick handling. In a quickfire ten-minute spell the visitors scored two tries from deep with some great inter-play to open up a 12-point lead.
In true Bognor spirit Balchin rallied his troops and a golden patch ensued. Impressive second row Nigel Mitchell took the lineout against the throw, Ben Archer used his power to cross the gain line and some great off-loads between the forwards released Balchin for the first score of the season. Rob Parry converted easily.
Directly from the kick-off, Bognor attacked again. A pinpoint cross-kick from Parry to the sprinter Josh Burgess on the wing freed the 17-year-old. Showing composure beyond his years, he sprinted clear of the covering defence and was faced with the visitors’ full back, but he used his cultured left foot to chip and re-gather without breaking stride to stroll under the posts for a fantastic try. Parry again chipped over the extras.
The front row of Roy Sergeant, Ben Burns and Armundus Morgan were dominant all day in the scrum, and after a succession of scrum resets, a penalty was awarded.
Man of the match Pat Gibbs took the quick tap and beat several defenders and a long pass to Balchin enabled the powerful centre Brock to hit a line of sheer class to split the defence for another converted try.
The half finished with another great Bognor try. Gibbs again was instrumental, his pressure on his opposite numbers forcing the turnover and interplay from Shane Stevens, Lee Thompson and Lang set up an easy try in the corner for Burns. Parry, showing no sign of the injury that’s plagued him in recent seasons, slotted the conversion from the touchline to make it 28-12 at the break.
The second half was one to forget for the home side as Tottonians dominated. Ill discipline from Bognor helped the visitors take the game away from them. A penalty count of 19-3 and two yellow cards will not be taken well by new coach Kent.
Tottonians showed great composure and handling to break Bognor’s defensive line time and again. The returning Upton was helpless at the back as the visitors flooded through for three unanswered tried, followed by a succession of easy penalties.
Bognor eventually gained possession and won their only three penalties of the half deep into injury time. With no time left, they ran at the opposition in hope of a final try.
Morgan looked to have scored on the wing only for a forward pass to be called. Advantage had been played and the ever-alert Parry tapped quick and dummied his way past virtually the whole Tottonians pack to dive over under the posts.
The easy conversion ensured he kept his 100 per cent kicking record.
Bognor host Gosport & Fareham this Saturday (3pm) as they try for their first win of the season.
BOGNOR: Morgan, Burns, Sergeant, Thompson, Mitchell, Lang, Balchin, Flynn, Gibbs, Parry, Burgess, Brock, B Archer, Stevens, Upton. Reps: N Archer, Stickland, Watson.