Bognor continued their excellent run of form with a bonus-point 22-5 win over fellow Hampshire League promotion hopefuls Fordingbridge at Hampshire Avenue.
Wet conditions stopped both sides playing their usual expansive game but Bognor gained the win through an exceptional defensive effort and well-executed game plan.
Fordingbridge started the better of the two young sides after a knock-on from Bognor resulted in a scrum just inside the visitors’ half. The Fordingbridge scrum-half nudged a box kick into the Bognor half and confusion at the back allowed a winger to fly-hack the ball over the try line to dot down.
Bognor immediately woke up and good pressure in defence forced a forward pass. From the scrum, Bognor went to the short side then put together a succession of wide phases but the Fordingbridge defence held strong.
Eventually referee Wendy Langley, who had a fine afternoon in allowing both teams to play, penalised the visitors for an infringement at the breakdown.
Bognor trusted their lineout and Ben Archer put the ball into the corner. A long throw by hooker Mark Ubsdell found his jumper and young prop Luke Calleja battered his way to a metre short of the line. After great control and short phases returning No8 Mike Page barged over to tie the scores, with the conversion missed.
The Fordingbridge response was immediate with their excellent hooker and fly-half pulling the strings to set up an attack in the Bognor 22. Bognor’s defence was again excellent, former shot-putter Shane Stevens typifying their approach with a big hit in the midfield.
More typical, though, were the basic errors and over-enthusiasm at the breakdown that gifted Fordingbridge four penalties within range of their kicker. Fortunately for the hosts these went unpunished as the Fordingbridge kicker struggled with the conditions.
A long clearance from full-back Josh Riggall gave Bognor the territory they needed. Fordingbridge struggled to regain their field position, the return kick allowing the Bognor pack to maul from the lineout.
With the Fordingbridge pack tied in, fly-half Ben Archer unleashed some of his speedsters in the backs. A long pass behind found veteran Tom Watson, who freed winger Stevens. Enjoying his best game of the season, he committed the full-back and passed to put Riggall in for a try. The conversion was missed and half-time was reached.
Coach Martin Broome instructed Bognor to gain field position and cut the penalty count. Bognor had completely ignored these instructions for the first ten minutes of the first half but their defensive commitment absorbed the Fordingbridge pressure with talisman Harry Dyer a constant nuisance for the visitors at the ruck.
Eventually half-backs Sam Newcombe and Ben Archer began to pin Fordingbridge back. Bognor pressurised the lineout but they could get nowhere near the well-drilled Fordingbridge jumpers. Fortunately a poor clearance kick gave Bognor their own throw inside the Fordingbridge half.
Josh Burgess fed the ball to Nathan Archer, on for Watson, who released Chris Clare. The flying winger had been struggling with a rolled ankle since early in the game but evaded the clutches of four Fordingbridge defenders. A deft offload to the ever-present Dyer looked to be a try-scoring pass but he was adjudged to have put a foot into touch.
From the lineout Bognor mauled again and Calleja, also carrying an injury, bulldozed over for his first try of the season. Burgess slotted the conversion.
Bognor continued their defensive resilience with abrasive hits coming in from Mark Ubsdell, James Barlow and Jacob Masters. Bognor released Steve Dove into the fray and Mitch Brock replaced Riggall at full-back.
Ben and Nathan Archer were a constant threat to the tiring Fordingbridge defence and Ben established good field position with the boot. The Fordingbridge throw was not straight while Dove had a disagreement with his opposite number. Langley rightly yellow-carded both.
Bognor made an error at the lineout but man-of-the-match Mike Page took it upon himself to clear up the loose ball and storm over from five metres out to score the bonus-point try.
This week Bognor have a weekend off allowing extra preparation time for their visit to league leaders US Portsmouth on December 6. All support is welcomed for the 2pm kick-off.
BOGNOR: Langridge, Ubsdell, Calleja, J Barlow, Masters, Tompkins, Dyer, Page, Newcombe, B Archer, Stevens, Burgess, Watson, Clare, Riggall, Dove, M Brock, N Archer.