Bognor’s good run of form came to end with a convincing 36-3 defeat at the hands of Hampshire League division-one leaders United Services. US proved too strong and continued their perfect season, which has brought them nine bonus-point victories.
Bognor started well, Harry Dyer and Shane Stevens pressurising the catcher. Some early exchanges and big hits eventually led to a knock-on in the midfield and Bognor were awarded the put-in at the scrum.
Further pressure came from the scrummage and Nathan Archer ran a tight angle and made a half break. Bognor continued to ask questions of the US defence with Burgess and Calleja running hard at the midfield.
But the US back row had all the answers, protecting their fly-half well to force a penalty.
US sought territory with the penalty and found a good touch five metres from the Bognor line. They mauled well and scored to take the lead, although the conversion was missed.
Bognor responded well from the kick-off, the lineout was rocking well as usual and front rowers Ubsdell and Angelov made their presence known with some good work in the loose.
Some further phases and big carries from Page saw Ben Archer find Burgess. A deft offload sent Calleja charging towards the line only for the young prop to twist his knee just five metres short.
Then it began to fall apart for Bognor. Calleja was forced to retire and US scored an almost identical, but this time converted, try on the opposite side of the pitch.
All systems put into place by coaches Outen and Broome went out the window – the front row forwards found themselves defending on the wing, back rowers were kicking and Bognor’s centres were sucked into rucks and mauls.
After a period of pressure US exploited a hole left by Tompkins, who rushed to make a hit, and scored beneath the posts.
There were some positives: winger and former pole-vaulter Shane Stevens was a shining light throughout the first half, dominating the high ball and making several charges through the US defence. Jacob Masters tackled and carried superbly, making yards not befitting of his 11-stone frame.
However further mistakes from Bognor were ruthlessly punished by the league leaders, who added a further three converted tries before the break and a long-range penalty.
By half-time Bognor’s injury woes were compounded, losing Ubsdell and Riggall for the vast majority of the game. Mitch Brock and Karl Flinn were introduced to the fray.
Bognor started the second half as they did the first, going back to the structure that has served them so well already this season. The US defence absorbed 20 minutes of relentless attack and Bognor’s effort went without reward.
A charged-down kick gave US a foothold in the Bognor half and there they stayed for the remainder of the game. Bognor defended with the heart and resilience they have become known for, ending the second half with no score for either team.
The victory for US was well deserved and Bognor will lick their wounds before old rivals Millbrook travel to Hampshire Avenue this weekend. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all support will be gratefully received to get this young side back on track.
BOGNOR: Angelov, Ubsdell, Calleja, J Barlow, Masters, Tompkins, Dyer, Page, Newcombe, B Archer, Burgess, N Archer, Stevens, Watson, Riggall, Langridge, Flinn, M Brock.