Farnham have the last word in eight-try battle
A topsy turvy ten point win has the faithful flustered
Large parts of this game were surreal. The Farnham pack shunting back the Old Tonbridgians (OT) eight at will with scrum after scrum on the retreat only to be countered by the OTs electric back who attacked at searing pace with great hands predominantly from deep in their own half.
For the faithful supporters on both sides, watching your side win and lose the game three or four times would have taken years of your life. The President's pacemaker was working on overtime.
Given the many times the lead changed it is difficult to declare which was the better side and, after a bizarre accidental mid-air collision causing serious injury to flying OTs fullback Jamie Lavers, which pitch was the better for the two. Both teams had to transfer to the 2nd pitch after the clash left Lavers waiting for an ambulance.
All this and some decent rugby from both sides. Although the tackling in defence appeared optional at times as both sides were guilty of stepping out of the first up confrontation.
Summer conditions greeted the teams. Farnham were determined to reverse fortunes having never beaten OTs suffering two close defeats last time they played in this division in 2015/16.
A perfect start! A 20 metre driving maul by Farnham produced quick ball. A knock on by OT centre Moss sets up three successive scrums for Farnham in the OT 22. The referee sets his tight play standards early as Farnham dominate and the OTs pack creaks. At the fourth attempt, No 9 Oli Brown spins the ball to Toby Salmon who is held but then driven over under the posts. Salmon takes the extras and its 7-0 after 3 minutes.
From the kick off Farnham clear their lines and the ball is recovered by OT winger Durrell. The return is direct, pacey and ominous. The attack from seventy metres out is clinical. The ball is shifted infield to fly-half Wood and on to Jones who puts winger Eames over in the corner. The warning signs are evident. The Tonbridgians have a classy set of backs and a clinical back three. A try seems likely every time they have the ball in hand.
At the restart, Farnham’s James Corlett is tackled in the air and from the penalty, Toby Salmon's trusty boot sends the ball into the corner. Line out and drive and a series of back moves ends with Salmon putting Corlett in under the posts - easy extras. 14-7 and Farnham press again. Route one rugby driving close in to the breakdown. Jemi Akin-Olugbade makes a superb break and is held but a massive drive continues through Naisbitt, Bond and Daly keeps the momentum going. Oli Brown, - terrier-like snapping at the forwards, shifts the ball to Corlett on the charge and he complete his brace. 19-7 and but 20 minutes gone.
The visitors then accelerated with two tries of their own. A sloppy exit from the Farnham 22 allows the electric three snap into action with fast hands and great pace, Eames in field to Gower, the OTs No 8 and despite a last ditch Bond tackle – try. 19-12.
The boys from Kent have their tails up! Kick and chase and a galloping chase down by Pete Daly halts the move and forces a Farnham scrum. However, Salmon’s deep clearance kick is taken quickly and again the OTs attack cuts swathes across the pitch. Arcing around the first line of defence the pace is too much for the second wave Durrell over and Wood with the equalising points.
19 all after an end-to-end first half.
With the restart just a few minutes gone, a speculative up and under is challenged for by Daly at 20 stone and 6'6" and the flying OTs fullback Lavers at 13 stone soaking wet. With both players watching the ball and competing fairly for it, a freak accident occurs as Dale falls on to the full back. Farnham’s physio team is on immediately. It looks serious and unfortunately this has been confirmed - one fractured vertebrae and two dislocated. Full limb movement is a huge plus and all at Farnham RUFC wish Jamie Lavers a speedy recovery.
With Jamie prone on the pitch and the ambulance crew taking the necessary precautions, the game is delayed for almost twenty minutes. Eventually it is agreed to move across to the second pitch and recommence proceedings with a scrum to Farnham.
For ten minutes or so the game goes off the boil. Incidents like that do affect players and the game only gradually returns to full pace. Farnham on the attack - held illegally - Toby Salmon penalty from in front 22-19.
Still both sides attack in their widely differing approaches. OTs with sweeping pacey back moves thwarted by some last-ditch defence or sloppy handling. Durrell is guilty of butchering two opportunities. Farnham with their forward driving approach - direct, muscular through Joris and Jennings, Bond and Daly driving the pack forwards.
70 minutes gone and the deadlock broken?
Penalty try Farnham after shenanigans at successive scrums on the OT five metre line. 29-19.
That's Tonbridgians gone surely? No, it wasn't! They immediately respond with a superb try – slick play through Wood and Jones and on to Moss at blistering pace. “Knife and butter” springs to mind. 29-24 with five minutes left with an easy kick missed.
Deep breath - one score in it.
Kick off and Ed Weeks, who was one of the few not to miss a tackle, claims the restart. For once OTs are caught flat-footed and the try is scored in the corner and the two score margin regained. 34-24.
That was to be it after a final three minutes of topsy-turvy activity. It was flawed, it was frenetic, it kept the spectators of both sides on tenterhooks, but a win is a win. Five precious points for Farnham.
A consolation bonus point for Tonbridgians with once again thoughts and best wishes to Jamie Lavers their injured full back.
The win was scrapped for and deserved - just!!
Ed Weeks 3
Pete Daly 2 points
Toby Salmon 1