Andover set the benchmark for London 2 South West with 31-33 win
2 bonus points give some consolation
A new season with a new squad after last season’s tumultuous climax ended in defeat for Farnham in a topsy-turvy encounter at Fortress Monkton. The ramparts were knocked down by Andover as a much-changed Farnham XV struggled against a well organised Andover who have enjoyed success in the higher leagues for the last three years. Much to take on board for the players and the Farnham supporters – the first few games will be a sharp learning curve.
With the pitch wetted by a sharp thunderstorm, the game kicked off. the season opener had exciting prospects for the youngsters to step up and shine given the home team was weakened by availability. Only seven of the triumphant Twickenham heroes were on the pitch.
The kick off initiated multi-phase Farnham possession after a Ben Adams catch and drive. The colossus Pete Daly makes the hard yards and on to Buster Bond - surely the exit drills cannot get better. But an attempt at quick ball and a knock on by Farnham is recovered by the predatory Andover back row. Acceleration from Jonny Rogers at fly half puts scrum half Davies in for the openers against the run of play. Conversion by the provider 0-7.
From the kick off Farnham win possession with hooker Jonny Davidson on the charge. An Olly Brown snipe puts Ed Weeks over for a well worked try. Easy conversion for Toby Salmon 7-7.
The pace is ramping up but early season handling errors puncture the flow as the two sides trade blows. Penatly Andover – perhaps pedantic from the young referee – definitely easy for Rogers 7-10.
With only 15 minutes gone early season enthusiasm and drive is starting to open up the game. Farnham win a scrum on the Andover 22. Pete Daly breaks from the base and onto the jinking Toby Salmon. Try and conversion from the Farnham fly half. 14-10.
No quarter as Andover respond. The Farnham penalty count is on the rise as the referee is strict at the breakdown. Andover 15 Dickies Rettalick takes advantage with a long range shot to make it 14-13.
The game is nip and tuck. From the kick-off, there’s a period of Farnham pressure. The home team takes the ascendancy around the field. Centres Corlett and Weeks make inroads prompted by half backs Brown and Salmon. Penalty to the corner and a catch and drive led by Naisbitt and Joris culminates with Pete Daly over wide out 19-13.
This is end to end stuff – with both sets of supporters and coaching staff on tenterhooks – first to blink!!
From the kick off another penalty against Farnham who are untidy at the breakdown. The 45 metre shot proves no problem to long range kicker Keir. Again Farnham respond from the kick off and drive a line out maul all the way to the try line. Patience required. Just drive on! But frustration mounts as the drive is held and the ball dislodged over the line – the chance goes abegging. With the score at 19-16 and Half Time approaching Farnham again transgress – the young replacements naïve at the breakdown. A forty minute deadlock at 19-19 with a penalty from Rogers.
With rain starting to sweep across the pitch the two sides spar and trade blows in the second half. The first scores will be vital. Andover pressure but are penalised. Salmon clears to the corner where a line out catch and drive through Markham and Adams with Bond in the van again puts Daly over in the corner. 24-19 with the conversion going wide.
Andover prove their worth – neither side will lie down and back come the visitors. Middleton on at scrum half enjoyed a superb 60 minutes jinking over for a try converted by Rogers 24-26. The lead starting to stretch.
Still worse for the home team, there’s a yellow card for replacement hooker Banks-Thomson whose lack of pace exposed his approach. With Farnham down to 14, Andover deliver the killer punch with a penalty try after three successive scrums. 24-33.
With hope starting to disappear the home heroes throw everything at the Hampshire boys. Line out 15 metres out and the maestro that is Toby Salmon jinks over after sustained Farnham pressure and converts his own try 31-33.
The clock is ticking as Farnham regroup. Penalty and a chance to make ground for the winning score, but the wind catches the effort and puts the ball dead. Game over. The try and the loosing bonus points give Farnham some consolation.
A steep learning curve for Farnham with local long-term rivals Camberley away next week. Changes will be made, lessons learned the season have started.
From today on the podium: Toby Salmon – 3 points, Jonny Davidson 2 and Oli Brown 1. Close great performances from Pete Daly and Buster Bond. A tough time for new skipper Andy Naisbitt who has a bit to do to lift the troops before next week’s tough Derby.