What was expected to be a close contest turned into a comprehensive victory for Burgess Hill as they approached the 40-point mark by the end of the match.
Hill had beaten Bognor 27-21 at Povey’s Close in a pre-season friendly, but the pace of Hill’s evolution this year, as well as on the back of some tough games against Eastbourne and Brighton Athletic meant Bognor were put to the sword second time around.
In the Quarter final Hill had relied on the right boot of 18 year old fly half Rhys Clarke, and in the semi-final he crossed for a try, 3 conversions and a penalty to leave him on 207 points scored for the season. But the stars of the show were the hill pack who won countless turnovers at the scrums. The Hill back row of Adam Rezazadeh, Dave Wattam and Connor Chatfield, who have a combined appearances total of 61 to date, played an integral part in a remarkable 30 yard rolling maul from a well-taken lineout for Rezazadeh to touch down for Hill’s opening try and his 7th try of the campaign.
Bognor’s Lineout functioned well and they had a high kick to run ratio for much of the first 60 minutes as they tried to use the wind and slope during the first half; the kicking was good, excellent at times, but the returns of Dave Daly and man of the match Liam Hopwood meant Hill had a great platform from which to attack.
Despite a feature of the game being an aggressiveness in defence, that felled ball-carriers before they got into their stride and without time to offload, Hill attacked with alacrity when opportunity beckoned, especially down the narrow side, from scrum half Massimo Hillier and centre Max Wilson.
Bognor tried to play a muscular game, using their big wings and centres to force their way over the gain line, through this they got to the Hill 22 where they won a penalty in the 20th minute to score their only points of the game.
The last play of the half saw Clarke nudge a 35m penalty into the wind and over the posts in front of the large crowd on the verandah which gave Hill a slender 8-3 advantage. The introduction of Philippine international Ash Heward, regular first team winger Mike Jennings and centre Luke Mortell saw Hill enjoy a wonderful second Half, the tries scored showing the variety and skill Hill have at their disposal.
Experienced winger Dave Daly rolled back the years to score a wonderful individual effort with a chip and chase including a deft flick of the ball of the floor into his hands to score wide out, followed by a training ground “8-9-15” move saw Daly again involved as he came off his opposite wing to put in-form youngster Hopwood in some space, who ran 60m and beat 3 defenders on his way to scoring his second in two matches wide out.
The second blow left Bognor bereft of stuffing. Their only joy had been running of 9, but they kept losing the ball in contact as Second rows CRIS LEAHY and Simon Eyre held the contact up of the floor resulting in multiple turnovers throughout the game. The second rows had a great shift and were both held up over the try line, from one such resulting scrum, the hill forward pack pushed their opposite numbers back over the try line for number 8 Wattam to bag his 9th try of the season.
There was to be no comeback by Bognor, who conceded six tries in all, but they did play well once they started to use their strong outside centre to punch holes. However, after another turnover, Rhys Clarke was able to use some decoy runners to go in untouched under the posts for a try he converted, and he also converted a try by replacement prop Darren Coulton on his first return to 1st Xv rugby this season.
Another assured 15man performance by Burgess hill, means they can look forward to a cup final and possibly a play-off game in the near future.