Farnham edge nail-biter at last
At last after four one-score defeats, Farnham held on to ‘thrash’ Winchester
This was not a game for the faint-hearted as Farnham 22-8 up at half time were gradually hauled back in by a rejuvenated Winchester. As the evening gloom descended Farnham just managed to hold on for an important bonus point win but boy it was close.
Winchester have been weakened by injuries for the early part of the season so with a number of their regulars back they expected to take Farnham close and started off at a frenetic pace. Both sides probing but Farnham in the early ascendancy – spilt ball and Winchester on the drive. Corlett in jackal-like with the turnover and Farnham attack from deep.
Penalty and the Cornish boot of Jack Scullion pushes Farnham into the Winchester half. Davidson on the throw to line out talisman Ben Adams and a hint of a maul, dummy and quick hands from scrum half Oli Brown to Toby Salmon - back after six weeks out with a hand injury - on the break. The momentum gained, Salmon junior to brother Michael at pace. Try wide out with Salmon the younger out of kilter with his boot. 5-0.
The probing continues as Farnham rampage for a second attack. Line out five metres out and prop Jules Joris in control. 10-0. Again the conversion, on a cold and frosty day, pushed aside.
The home side are starting to wreak havoc on Winchester. Winger Reece Stennet is held short and Comley, backing up, is denied. But Farnham continue. From a well won line out with Jordan Frost aerial Oli Brown is instrumental with his snipe and quick ball. Toby Salmon to brother Michael, still with it all to do. Full back Ben Jones at pace – unstoppable and 15-0.
Winchester are stung into action after a slumbering start. They begin to look ominous as their pick and drive game comes into play – their big back five spitting out the Farnham defenders. The props and hooker decide to join the party and only a last ditch make or break tackle by Toby Salmon two metres out stops the Winchester winger from sliding over in the corner. Winchester continue to press and the Farnham defence holds. This is backs to the wall and finally the ramparts tumble. First right then left sweep the Winchester boys – miss pass out wide and diminutive winger Charlie Preston scampers over In the corner. Too wide for the kicker.
Tackle after tackle as the intensity mounts and the young South African referee polices proceedings well. Both sets of supporters delighted with the arbiter’s performance. Both back rows playing right up to the invisible margins for turnovers and offside decisions – once too many and the Winchester 7 sent to the bin. Farnham to the corner and after five driving mauls prop Gareth Yeomans plunders over for the bonus point try. Toby Salmon and its 22-5 with half time approaching.
Surely the game done and dusted?
Wrong – back battle Winchester from the kick off and more shenanigans at the breakdown result in a penalty just inside the Farnham half. Up steps Winchester’s full back and their man of the match to thump over a 42 metre penalty 22-8 at the interval.
As the second half started, a momentum shift was sensed. The Winchester No.8 Robert Reed who had been eclipsed by Farnham’s Pete Daly during the first period realised that at 6’6” and 18 stone (my assessment) he could do considerable damage backed by his two wing forwards. The visitors attacked with renewed confidence.
Farnham were on the back foot for much of the second half. First blood to Winchester after a barrelling run from No.8 Farnham are penalised and fullback Ollie Dungar makes sure of the easy three points 22-11.
The Farnham defence holding on – just. A break out turned over after a thumping tackle on Winger Reece Stennet. Back come Winchester smashed back time after time by Michael Salmon and James Corlett in midfield – the back row of Bond, Frost and Comley upping the tackle count. The Winchester impetus rising with every attack.
Penalty and that fullback again. 22-14.
68 minutes gone and a sweeping Winchester attack stopped illegally by Elliot Rich, on for Reece Stennet. Yellow card and Farnham’s problems mount. The Farnham defensive wall is under threat and it’s all hands to the pumps. Penalty Winchester and they need two scores.
Scrum called and won by the Hampshire boys held but inexorably it moves forwards, Farnham in retreat the drive now inevitable and Reed over for a try easy for Dungar. 22-21.
The Farnham Seniors pacing the touchline like expectant fathers. Surely not another last-ditch defeat? But for a valiant Winchester, it was not to be their day – a losing bonus point their reward. For Farnham 5 points and the need for a much-improved performance against league leaders Camberley at Monkton Lane next Saturday.
Michael Salmon 3 – big game under pressure
Toby Salmon 2 – try saving tackle and good to see him back
Steve Simmons 1 – the hard yards and weight in the row.