Rugby: Bognor push Andover so close
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Both teams stood in silence before kick-off in respect for ex-Bognor player and club secretary John Jennings who had passed away suddenly last week.
Having scored a century of points in their previous two games, Andover travelled to Hampshire Avenue full of confidence and expecting another easy win. However, their wild celebrations at the end of an exhilarating see-saw of a contest were testament to their relief at being able to hang on for the narrowest of victories. For their part, despite the disappointment of being pipped at the post after leading for the majority of the match, Bognor were at least able to come away with two bonus points to consolidate their mid-table position.
Bognor began by conceding the first two of far too many penalties, the second of which Andover gratefully accepted to give them an early lead.
Jamie Foote hit back with a powerful break down the left-hand side but, with a 3v2 beckoning, the big flanker crowded his two support runners towards the touchline and the oppportunity was missed. The first scrum ended with a penalty to Bognor and, from the ensuing lineout, Foote made amends for his earlier mistake by tearing over for his side’s first try. Bradley Caparo converted to make the score 7-3.
Bognor began to exert some impressive control, helped by the experience of full-back Josh Riggall who kicked intelligently for position, but they let themselves down with further indiscipline, conceding a total of five penalties in the first twelve minutes. This was compounded by a loose kick out of defence and Andover capitalised on a poor chase by scoring their first try of the afternoon.
Bognor settled down and won two penalties of their own, but overthrows at attacking lineouts meant that Andover were able to clear their line. Eventually, Foote took the ball from a third lineout inside the visitors’ 22 and made amends for his earlier error by charging over for his second try. Caparo continued his fine run of form from the tee by adding the two points.
Andover scored their second try from a driving lineout before Caparo nudged Bognor back into the lead through a penalty given for a high tackle.
Five minutes before half-time Bognor repeated their earlier mistake when a loose kick followed by a poor chase ended with Andover displaying great support play to score their third try. The home side hit back immediately and some smart handling saw Tyrone Makasi fly down the touchline leaving four would-be tacklers in his wake to score a wonderful individual try. Caparo’s conversion gave Bognor a 24-20 half-time lead.
The four-point lead was extended to seven at the start of the second half, Caparo stroking over his second penalty of the afternoon following a multi-phased attack by the home side.
It was now Andover’s turn to exert some pressure and it was only some last-ditch defence from Bognor that enabled them to hold the ball up over their own line. Unfortunately their hard work was wasted as the visitors, for the third time in succession, ran the ball back from a poor kick and helped themselves to a bonus-point try.
Undeterred, Bognor’s youngsters worked their way back upfield and, with the referee playing advantage, another big carry by Foote saw scrum-half Jack Hornibrook stopped just short of the line. The referee awarded the penalty 30 metres out but, inexplicably, instead of allowing Caparo to extend Bognor’s lead with a simple three points, the decision was taken to kick to the corner, a decision that backfired badly when the resulting lineout was lost and Andover cleared their line.
Yet again Bognor’s discipline let them down and, sensing their opportunity, the visitors kicked their way to the home five-metre line. Their first attack was thwarted when the ball was again held up over the line after a fine tackle by Jeremy Newton-Young. Andover were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, however, and, with ten minutes left, they drove over for their fifth try to retake the lead.
Back came Bognor and, after a breathless passage of play, it was man-of-the- match Makasi who broke clear to touch down for his second try. Caparo’s difficult conversion was pulled just wide which left Bognor one point adrift and with the minutes ticking away.
Bognor spent the last five minutes hammering away at Andover’s line with the front row of Chris Webb, Mark Ubsdell and Charlie Weller dominating their county-capped opponents to the point where they won another two scrum penalties close to the line. Despite this, the visitors tackled everything that was thrown at them and they managed to keep their line intact until the referee eventually blew for full time. Cue, celebrations for Andover and heartbreak for Bognor.
This coming Saturday (Dec 2) Bognor are at home to third-placed Gosport & Fareham (2pm KO).