The first outing of 2020 ended with Bognor chalking up a fine home victory over Sandown & Shanklin.
With the agony of a heavy away defeat earlier in the season and an eagerness to continue current form, the hosts set out to make another statement and leapfrog their opposition in the Hampshire premier table.
A familiar strong start from Bognor set the tone and it wasn’t long before they were deep in Sandown’s 22m.
Several consecutive forward carries put the away side on the back foot and eventually pressured them into conceding a penalty. Captain Josh Burgess opted for the three points and kicker Jeremy Newton Young delivered the goods, 3-0.
With a trademark mazy run from full-back Freddie Hayes, Bognor again found themselves in S&S territory.
Dan Robinson scored under the posts at the end of a well-orchestrated backs move and Newton Young added the extras, 10-0.
Unwilling to roll over, the opposition began to hit back and find a rhythm of their own. Five metres short of the home try line, Sandown continued to apply pressure but the defence led by Sam Newcombe, Tom Parsons and Lee Balchin, held them back.
Eventually an offside led to Robinson being sinbinned, shortly followed by Shane Stevens for an infringement at the breakdown and Sandown capitalising with a try of their own, 10-7.
Pressure began to mount for the home side and ill-discipline continued to punish them. S&S utilised the space out wide and found themselves crossing the line again and converting to take the lead, 10-14.
After a chaotic series of events and a major blip in Bognor’s focus, they set out to regather composure and build momentum.
Harrison Southern and debutant Nathan Thompson were carrying hard and wrestling through contact in the centre of the park created the platform for Sam Newcombe to explore options to his left and right.
Swatting away his victims, Balchin strolled in to score in the corner and made it 15-14 at the stroke of half-time.
It wasn’t long before Balchin struck again. A well-executed backs move from this position found Chris Hay, who was stopped agonisingly close to the try line.
Newcombe, assessing his options, spotted Balchin sprinting from afar who he was then able to feed, enabling him to bundle over to take the score to 20-14.
With this second try and his defensive efforts, it was little wonder he was later named man of the match.
Sandown proved why they have been a force throughout the league and retaliated with composure and intent, eventually scoring a try to bring them back into the game and the crucial conversion was successful, giving the away side the lead, 20-21.
A returning Paddy Burnett was introduced on to the wing and made an instant impact with his attacking threat and defensive leadership.
Enthusiastic to prove himself and regain his scoring form, it wasn’t long before he received the ball out wide and punished Sandown with his speed, dotting down under the posts.
Newton Young added the extras again, 27-21.
Despite the away side’s efforts, Bognor stood firm and kept the score in their favour.
Bognor: Benjamin, Balchin, Ali, Stevens, Thompson, Southern, Parsons, J Burgess, Newcombe, Newton Young, F Burgess, Archer, Robinson, Hay, Hayes, Edwards, Castleton, Burnett.