By Jack Hornibrook
Despite downpours throughout the week in the build up to the biggest occasion of the year at BRFC, the rain held off as Bognor hosted top of the league Alton in the day of the annual christmas luncheon.
With a change in management, coaching personnel and a reasserted confidence throughout the squad, the home side were eager to take on the challenge of a side boasting an unbeaten streak running over a year.
The tone was set early on when the bognor pack obliterated the first scrum of the game earning themselves a penalty. Deep in Alton territory after Jeremy Newton Young found touch with the kick, patient build up play saw Sam Newcombe find Freddie Burgess out wide who broke through to dot the ball down in the corner. Strong winds forced the ball wide on the attempt at the posts, 5-0.
From the Alton kick off Chris Webb was fed the ball and, in typical fashion, he bulldozed upfield. Support came in abundance and throughout the phases the Bognor forwards surged forward with intensity. It wasn't long before Webb was cruising through to increase his personal try tally,10-0.
Alton eventually found some momentum and persistence in attack lead to them scoring out wide, an impressive conversion from the touchline followed to add the extras. 10-7 and the game was all to play for.
Bognor's aggressive defense caused for many errors in the Alton ranks and Joe Benjamin and co continued to relish the opportunity to prove their dominance at scrum time. Another scrum penalty awarded and Newton Young stepped up to stretch the lead further, 13-7.
With little to offer in attack, Alton resorted to kicking possession away; Chris Hay, in the form of his life, on the receiving end and pinning them back with superb tactical kicking.
The half time whistle blew with the score at 13-7 and it was evident that all at
Hampshire Avenue believed that they would be witnessing a spectacular upset in the league.
Playing with the same urgency as the first half, Bognor were defending in Alton territory. Led by Lee Balchin, Darren Bidwell and Josh Burgess, Feroscious tackling forced Alton to kick under pressure and a charge down by winger Ben Luxton was regathered allowing him to hurry under the posts and score. This time the conversion successful, 20-7.
A combination of physicality and pace came as Tom James, Luke Inkle and Mike Matafwali were introduced from the bench. Inkle and James making an immediate impact offering powerful ball carrying and tackling.
An unfamiliar centre partnership in the form of Nathan Archer and debutant Max Molyneaux proved to show a lot of promise for the future contributing with creative attacking and well disciplined defence. Molyneaux also a constant threat at the breakdown.
James was next on the score board following on from great build up play tight around the fringes, again led by the forwards. An explosive drive through the collision meters from the line took the score to 25-7.
Disgraceful scenes followed as Shaun Bailey's tremendous performance was put to a halt when an opposition player threw several unexpected punches and another stamped on a player. James's retaliation resulted in his sending off. At this point Alton's frustrations were evident and what had been a fierce but fair battle was tarnished.
The home team maintaining focus and with little time left at the midfield lineout, Shane Stevens led the pack to propel upfield. Several progressive phases later and George Castleton snuck through to add another 5 points and to top off a great performance.
At 30-7 the game was won but Alton continued to try all they could to find a consolation and in the dying moments of the game, when they seemed to have an opportunity out wide, they were rejected when Molyneaux made another vital turn over at the breakdown. Newton Young kicked into touch and the final whistle blew.
A 30-7 bonus point win for the home side, a clear statement made to the league leaders and all in the Hampshire premiership. The rejuvenated squad are eager to face the next challenge as they travel to Havant on the 21st for their last out