SANDOWN & SHANKLIN 36 BOGNOR 19
Bognor returned pointless from their long trip to the Isle of Wight and, as a result, slipped down to fourth place in the table, their hosts bouncing back strongly from the previous week's heavy defeat at runaway leaders Basingstoke.
As Bognor's list of injured/unavailable front row players reached double figures the depleted squad assumed that things could not get any worse. However, Prop Star Chris Webb was forced to pull out after breaking his hand during training on Tuesday, and he was followed by Josh Riggall and Will Cullen both of whom were forced to withdraw on Thursday with serious muscle injuries.
Sandown was always going to be a tough place to visit anyway, and so the defeat came as no great surprise. More importantly the players who stepped up did themselves and their club proud as they battled right up to the final whistle.
Bognor began really strongly and, after thwarting a multi-phase attack by the home side, they managed to turn the ball over, allowing Sam Newcombe to tear away for the opening try. Dave Sweeney converted to give the visitors the ideal start.
Sandown hit back with a simple penalty after a needless infringement and they followed this up with a huge drive towards the Bognor line.
When the maul collapsed the referee deemed that it was deliberate and immediately awarded a penalty try and a yellow card to prop Matt Cox.
While Cox was still off the field, another huge drive by the home pack brought them their second try under the posts and, at 3-17 down, Bognor were staring down the end of a barrel.
Cox returned to the fray but Bognor's pack continued to be driven back at every scrum and the backs were receiving no front-foot ball whatsoever. The next score, then, came totally out of the blue and gave Bognor some hope going into half-time. After being shunted backwards at a rate of knots on their own put-in, Bognor's skipper Josh Burgess picked up on his own ten-metre line and set off on a superb, rampaging run deep into the Sandown half. Incredibly, the big No.8 kept going, swatting would-be tacklers away and eventually crashing over for the try of the season.
Sandown began the second half by kicking another simple penalty from in front of the posts and followed it up with a well-constructed try after three phases from lineout possession.
Bognor had to re-shuffle further after losing scrum-half Jack Hornibrook with a broken hand and second row Darren Bidwell with a recurrence of a shoulder injury. Far from folding, however, the gutsy visitors hit back with a try of their own. Flanker Paul Briant carried strongly deep into the home defence and Dan Robinson finished well to touch down. Unfortunately the young full-back took a heavy knock shortly afterwards and was forced to leave the field with suspected concussion.
Sandown replied with a bonus-point try and Shane Stevens almost managed to gain the bonus point that Bognor's efforts deserved when the winger was adjudged to have put his foot out in the act of touching down. The visitors never gave up and their Stirling efforts were epitomised by the total commitment shown by man-of-the-match Marc Voigt.
Coach Scott Barlow, whilst being delighted with the positive attitude showed by his weakened side, will be hoping that several of his senior players will regain their fitness over the next few weeks and that Bognor can have a strong run-in to Christmas.
Team: Robinson, Burnett, Newcombe, Sweeney, Stevens, Newton-Young, Hornibrook, Stubbs, Voigt, Cox, Orchard, Bidwell, Knight, Burgess((Capt), Briant.
Replacements: Teague, Masters, Bailey