Farnham break Eastleigh hoodoo at last
Full blooded, not for the faint hearted, this was a titanic encounter.
Eastleigh are clinging on to their London South West 2 survival and today they battered away at the Farnham defense as if their very lives depended on it. The final outcome - the narrowest of wins by 13-15 for Farnham. The first time they have beaten Eastleigh at their home ground for eight years – but boy it went to the wire.
The President’s pacemaker went into overdrive as Farnham 8-12 up with two minutes to play wilted under the incessant Eastleigh pressure. A cross kick to the right wing and Eastleigh are 13-12 with the conversion missed. Surely not another one-point defeat!
The kick off floated into the Eastleigh 22 and Ben Adams, who enjoyed a total performance, took the ball on the full and the important yards were made. The Eastleigh rearguard went into panic mode and in the scramash for the ball conceded the penalty for a high tackle fifteen meters out and virtually in front of the posts. Toby Salmon who has suffered from the kicking yips of late for the win, steps up. His nerves held – despite some unwanted, untimely remarks from the touchline - and Farnham regained the lead 13-15. The restart commenced the last play at which Farnham conceded a penalty. Eastleigh kicked to the corner but Jordan Frost rose high in the lineout to steal the ball that was smashed into touch by the grateful Farnham No9 and the referee whistled for the end of proceedings.
“Never in doubt,” mused the Farnham Faithful.
Over the years these two clubs have enjoyed some fine battles. Both teams ended last season with identical records – played 22, lost 1 and both were promoted to London SW2. The matches between the two clubs have always had edge and this encounter was no different.
Farnham enjoyed the early breakthrough. After a period of sustained pressure, Eastleigh were pinned under their posts and the clearance was batted down by the ubiquitous Toby Salmon who followed up sharply to claim the try. In a swirling wind, he just missed the extras. 0-5 Farnham.
Not dissimilar to the fixture at Effingham earlier in February, Farnham were not at the races. Despite another inspirational performance from stand-in captain Pete Daly, the first half lacked lustre. Eastleigh’s enthusiasm and dogged effort got under the visitors’ skin. The Eastleigh supporters are well practiced at creating an intimidating atmosphere and on this occasion the conditions were perfect for their team to put in a suitably mongrel performance.
Back they came with successive pick-and-drives to eat up the yards. The momentum was with the Hampshire boys. From a five-metre scrum, they engineered the final surge allowing John Williams to score their try. 5-5 with the conversion clipping the upright. 26 minutes gone and all to play for.
Back came the visitors. The back row of Comley, Reece de Grucy and Daly steered proceedings and the revamped front row of Ian Williams, Jonny Davidson and Man-of-the-Match Gareth Yeomans began to dominate in the scrums. This is a powerful squad and even late changes did not cause any disruption. Ben Adams and James Franklin in the row complimented each other. Adams ran the line out and Franklin did the power.
On 35 minutes a Farnham attack was thwarted illegally on the Eastleigh Five metre line. Penalty Farnham. Quick as a flash scrum half Ollie Whetton tapped and dove over under the posts. Easy for Toby Salmon and there was daylight in the score at 5-12.
The game resumed as combative, intimidating theatre with the advantage and territory switching between the two teams. Stalemate at half time.
The Eastleigh boys thrived on the intimidating atmosphere their spectators generated. Perhaps too much advice is offered by their vociferous supporters. Perhaps too much is expected.
Both sides strove for territory and the momentum gradually swung to the Home side. Pick-and-drive followed pick-and-drive but the Farnham defence remained resolute. The back five, marshalled by Ollie Whetton and Toby Salmon, continually forced Eastleigh into mistakes. James Corlett and Michael Salmon in the centre and the back three of Jack Scullion, Ed Weeks and Ben Jones stood firm throughout a sustained period of attack by the home XV.
Having scorned numerous penalty shots at goal for kicks to the corner in search of an invaluable try bonus point, Eastleigh eventually set their sights on a simple win and let Phil Baldwin take the points at the next Farnham infringement. 8-12.
As the clock ran down Eastleigh upped the ante and drove for the jugular. Wave after wave repulsed but, finally, an inch perfect chip kick by Panos Logothetis to the right wing put replacement wing Rich O’Donnell over in the corner. Try Eastleigh wide out, 13-12 and the clincher?
The conversion drifted wide with two minutes on the clock.
The final act. Michael Salmon with a hanging restart and Ben Adams on the charge into the Eastleigh 22. Oli Brown on as a ‘finisher’ barking the orders. The Farnham 8 drove on. Penalty, the winning score by Salmon Junior and that critical lineout turnover after the restart.
The Hoodoo is broken and at last the Eastleigh crowd are quietened. The President’s pacemaker has restarted!
Tremendous leadership from Pete Daly, but this week.
Gareth Yeomans – 3 points – a huge shift from the prop.
Ben Jones – 2 – faultless at fullback.
Toby Comley – 1 – nuisance for their scrum-half all afternoon.