Brilliant Bognor blow away Fareham Heathens

The Bognor and Chichester thirds do battle at Hampshire Avenue / Picture by Kate Shemilt
The Bognor and Chichester thirds do battle at Hampshire Avenue / Picture by Kate Shemilt

After a stunning first half against old rivals Fareham Heathens, during which they scored 31 points, Bognor closed the game out to move third in the table.

Although the final scoreline suggests a comfortable victory, the feisty home side fought back strongly in the second half, enjoying long periods of territorial dominance to score two well-deserved tries of their own.

The visitors’ pack was strengthened by the return of second row James Barlow, prop Tom James and flanker Lee Balchin. The other major change was that, in the absence of their two regular scrum-halves, Paul Briant was forced to return to a position that he had not played for some considerable time.

Far from looking rusty, however, Briant slotted in seamlessly with a great display of passing, kicking and running.

With just a few minutes gone George Castleton made a trademark break and Briant was on hand to touch down for the first try. Dave Sweeney added the extras.

Fareham were awarded a penalty and they spurned the three points on offer to kick for the corner. Their decision was vindicated at the following lineout when they drove through a poor Bognor defence to narrow the gap.

James’ return to the first team was rather shortlived, the referee adjudging that the big tight-head’s tackle on his opposite number was dangerously high, giving him ten minutes in the sinbin.

Bognor were characteristically giving away too many needless penalties but, in between, were playing some attractive rugby. A forward pass from full-back Dan Robinson prevented wing Shane Stevens from scoring, then Sweeney was obstructed when he looked certain to gather his own kick ahead.

The veteran centre accepted the compensation of three points to put Bognor five points ahead after 15 minutes.

The first of Bognor’s injury problems struck when talisman and captain Josh Burgess was forced off with a hyper-extension of the elbow.

Castleton was involved again when he broke through and passed to Briant. This time the scrum-half found Jeremy Newton-Young on his shoulder and the young fly-half flew over for Bognor’s second try.

The ever-improving Paddy Burnett grabbed a double before half-time, the first from possession won at a scrum against the head, and the second after another break by Newton-Young.

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Any thoughts that Bognor would be able to cruise through the second half were quickly dispelled by further injuries to Burnett and Stevens, together with a surprising yellow card against Balchin after a collision while in possession of the ball.

Fareham took advantage of the confusion caused by so many changes and for the first time they began to dominate possession and territory.

Despite the home team’s resurgence, centre Sam Newcombe continued his impressive form by smashing clean through the middle and sprinting 50m for the first try of the second half. Sweeney converted – his seventh successful kick of the match – to push the visitors further ahead.

Bognor’s defence, with man-of-the-match Newton-Young, replacement Sean Bailey and debutant Gordon Bailey leading the way, held firm for 20 minutes but the pressure eventually told and Fareham crossed for two well-taken tries.

Bognor had the last word as Robinson scorched over the line to score his team’s sixth try.

Bognor’s next league match will be at home on Saturday, December 1, when they entertain Eastleigh twos (2pm).

Bognor: Robinson, Stevens, Newcombe, Sweeney, Burnett, Newton-Young, Briant, Webb, Voigt, James, Bidwell, Orchard, Balchin, Burgess, Castleton. Reps: Barlow, G Bailey, S Bailey.

* Bognor and Chichester’s respective third teams met in division four west of the Sussex League at Hampshire Avenue and Bognor won 43-14.