Gutsy Farnham just pipped by last year's finalists
Report brilliantly written by Geoff Bond - as I think you all know by now is the case week in week out.
This was a game to warm the Farnham Faithful. With six changes in the pack and two in the backs, the match against last year's Cup Finalists Charlton Park was always going to be a test of the resources in the Farnham squad and what a game they made of it.
Superbly marshaled throughout by the Herculean efforts of Pete Daly driving on his young pack and Michael Salmon steering the backs, the victory just eluded the marauding Farnham squad. 17-14 the final score so close.
Conditions were abysmal throughout. Sleety drizzle and a greasy ball threatened to spoil the afternoon but both sides created a full on old style wet weather battle. Undeterred by the reputation of this proud old club - 125th anniversary this year - the young Farnham tyros threw themselves at the opposition in open play - Reece de Gruchy, Jordan Frost, James Franklin were all bodies on the line at tackle and ruck. The untried front row of Bentham, Yeomans and Belcher fought for parity in the tight - the only part of the game where Farnham were literally taken to the cleaners. Experience counts for a lot in the dark arts of the scrum and the Park heavies in the front row - Read, Bristow and Stanford-Francis - had that experience in Spades.
Honours even in the first fifteen minutes. Farnham enjoyed the edge territorially with Toby Salmon’s probing kicks for position and scrum half Oli Brown sniping around the fringes. The pace increased with every new break. On fifteen minutes a penalty to Farnham and Salmon kicked to the corner. Though am untried combination of players, the line out was successful and Daly went over from the back of the maul for a well-deserved try under the posts. The extras were easy for Toby Salmon.
Stung into action, the home side’s response was swift. Their first meaningful visit to the Farnham 22 produced a sweeping, multi-phase attack from one side of the pitch to the other. The Farnham D was resolute but one slip opened a gap and the home flyhalf McDonald went through under the posts. Conversion completed by Knuckey. 7-7.
Farnham coaches Gary Stennett and Andy James made the changes with Marco Azevedo, who enjoyed a superb debut, being replaced by Gianluca De Nardi. Jordan Frost picked up another injury. He is not enjoying a lot of luck this season. He is replaced by Daniel Williams, back to rugby after a period of weekend work. The big Devonian put in a good shift.
Despite all of the changes, the pace was still relentless and, considering the conditions, the skill levels and handling superb.
Farnham enjoyed the upper hand with the back three of Ed Weeks, Connor Rumpson and Jo Wigmore prompted by Jemi Akin Olugbade and Mike Salmon at centre, all making inroads into the Park Half. The visitors unlucky not to be ahead through two penalty kicks just missed by Toby Salmon - frustrating after the efforts to get into scoring positions. Farnham would pay and pay they did.
Charlton Park attacked direct and were held up under the Farnham posts. Scrum on five metres and despite a scramble defence, the Farnham 8 were shunted back. Jemi Akin Olugbade drives in from the side of the scrum to disrupt illegally and a penalty try awarded. 14-7 on half time.
Still the drizzle came down as the second half kicked off. Like the first half this was attritional with no quarter asked. Charlton Park still dominated the scrums but it was even at the line-outs with Farnham's young back row edging the breakdowns. It was promising to be a close game.
Farnham, playing down the very slight slope, began to get the upper hand. Close support with countless thundering drives from Daly and the Italiaphonic trio of Franco, Marco and Jan Luca eating up the yards, Park were under the cosh. Another penalty to the corner and the catch and drive was successful. Yeomans unstoppable at the heart of the maul. Success for Toby Salmon and the scores tied at 14-14.
Thoughts of extra time did not excite the supporters of either side. The temperature dropping and the drizzle increasing. The match - battled out in the middle half of the pitch between the 22s - would be decided on the next score. Who would break the deadlock?
Both defences worked tirelessly in a tribute to the fitness and sheer bloody mindedness of both sides. Again Charlton Park’s heavy runners made ground through the middle and Farnham were penalised for not releasing. Charlton’s Knuckey successful with the all important penalty. 17-14.
Despite some superb attacking play, Farnham just could not complete the coup de grace and Charlton Park ran out on balance deserving winners, Their front row was the deciding factor and the Lynch pin of their success.
This was a great test for a young Farnham squad who put in a tremendous effort with a determined attitude throughout. The club spirit was epitomised by the appearance of 40-something veteran prop and Club Captain Barney Hart who joined the fray as substitute in the front row.
The Cup run over, Farnham can now concentrate on cementing their place in London 2 SW with the visit to Effingham next Saturday. Farnham's only concern is a back injury to No 10 Toby Salmon, replaced by Rich Brember in the game, they will hope he recovers in time for next week.
Pete Daly 3
Mike Salmon 2
Gareth Yeomans 1