Bognor make great Gains as new hero emerges
Hampshire Avenue played host to arguably the biggest game of the season so far - and Bognor won the day, beating Millbrook 20-18 to cement second spot in the top division of the Hampshire League.
Lee Balchin and Billy toone once again named a strong Bognor side who they firmly believed would do the business.
The contest started with clean line breaks from veterans Jonny Lang and Lee Balchin giving the hosts excellent quick ball for pass master Toone to play with.
The Bognor defence was looking ropey and a few gaps began to appear in between the ruck areas, a lack of communication from Tom James and two missed tackles in the midfield meant Milbrook could break without much effort and score first.
Michael Calton, starting at No10, used his centres well after the restart. Sam Newcombe and Josh Burgess were looking fired up in the loose. James Barlow and Adam Knight continued to prove why they deserve to feature with some savage ruck play and defensive efforts.
Paddy Burnett was next to score after some wicked hands from Pat Gains and Jack Hornibrook. The lightning winger dotted down over the white wash and Bognor trailed 7-5 after a conversion miss from Gains.
Just before half-time skipper Balchin was sin-binned and the Milbrook kicker slotted over to give them a 10-5 lead.
With just 14 men going into the first five minutes of the second half, Bognor knew they had to dig deep.
Discipline was beginning to let Bognor down but powerful carries from front row trio Chris Webb, Joe Burns and Venci Angelov meant Bognor had excellent go-forward ball. But the Milbrook pack counter-rucked immensely and caused the home side issues. Another penalty for the away side was slotted.
Pat Gibbs, brought on for the injured Hornibrook, showed great pace on the outside and received a magical missed pass from replacement fly-half Joshua Riggall. The versatile bald Gibbs fed the try hungry Gains who dazzled the crowd with some great feet and finished to make it 13-10.
Chris Webb was next to make inroads in the Milbrook defence. Balchin was hitting his rucks with conviction and power and Toone and Riggall saw space before a pass was fired wide to Burgess, who assisted Gains. He got over the try line to put Bognor ahead – all while a man down after James was shown red at the 60-minute mark.
Milbrook showed great bravery in the last ten minutes getting another score of their own after a great line break out wide. The conversion was wide but Bognor trailed 18-17.
Aaron Cook was introduced and proved his worth with some strong carries around the fringes.
Man of the match Lang linked up in the Milbrook 22 with back row partners Balchin and Knight, the trio making a combined tackle and turnover effort to grasp a late penalty opportunity for the home side.
It was Gains’ chance to become a Bognor hero early into his stint at the club and didn’t the Yorkshire lad gain his applause, slotting over a penalty to win it for Bognor after some patient tight phase play marshalled by scrum half Toone.
Bognor: Webb, Burns, Angelov, James, Barlow, Lang, Knight, Balchin, Toone, Calton, Burnett, Newcombe, Burgess, Hornibrook, Gibbs, Gains, Riggall, Cook.