Petit General pulls the strings as Farnham triumph
A game of scrum halves. Report by Geoff Bond.
This was a game dominated by the two opposing scrum halves. The links between forwards and backs and generally the noisiest players on the field – they steer, they cajole, they verbally bully, they snipe around the fringes and today against Eastleigh we had two fine examples.
Ollie Brown, eventual man of the match, pitted against Eastleigh’s young tyro Will Rigglesford – a defining contest to set the tone for the match.
Perfect conditions with a slight cross wind greeted both teams. Eastleigh our Hampshire rivals over the last couple of years. It promised to be a battle. We were not let down.
Early sparring from both sides – continuity as usual the plan for the day. Farnham were missing their heavyweights Pete Daly and Dan Williams and fielded a leaner, faster looking pack. Ian Williams, back after the birth of their new baby, in the row with Ben Adams, Jordan Frost at 8 with Jemi restored as an ‘experienced’ 6.
The early signs were good. Sweeping attacks prompted by half backs Brown and Toby Salmon. Michael Salmon, back from his travels, partnering in-form James Corlett in the centre. With a young back three of Ben Jones, Alex Chalker and Elliott Rich. The lighter, leaner side had pace to burn.
Toby Salmon clearance kick from half way and the line out burgled on the five metre line. Brown, Salmon, Salmon, Corlett through the hands at pace. Rich over in the corner. 5-0. No luck for kicker Toby Salmon in the blustery conditions.
A poor restart and clearance puts Farnham immediately under pressure. Penalty Eastleigh and experienced flyhalf Phil Baldwin ignores the swirling breeze to claim the three points. 5-3.
Eastleigh bely their position at the basement of the table and battle to breach the Farnham defence. Great defence from the Farnham boys – the front row of Naisbitt, Joris and Jennings defiant around the fringes and the back five of Adams, Williams, Frost, Comley and Jemi putting in the hits further out. Aggressive line speed denies Eastleigh the gain line and the Farnham double attacking pods of four men on each side of the pitch start to take their toll.
Eastleigh push back the first attacks but Brown puts flanker Comley away, a bit to do but over wide out 10-3.
The restart successful, Corlett into the Eastleigh half. Penalty to Farnham Eastleigh offside. Toby Salmon to the corner and a clinical catch and drive at the line-out marshalled by Buster Bond, on for a groggy Jordan Frost, and hooker Lennie Jennings over for the try. Impossible to stop from 5 metres. Still no luck for the younger Salmon. 15-3.
Eastleigh enjoying the wind advantage battle back. The Farnham defence holds, well organised countering each surge. The pressure creates turnover opportunities, Bond and Jonny Davidson snapping over the ball. Frustration for the visitors as the ref runs down the first half.
The consensus – a good first half. Faster and more measured than last week. Chances taken – points on the board and the wind advantage for the second forty minutes.
Eastleigh come back with a vengeance, in short they have to score next to get back into the game. Farnham determined to close the door on their ambitions. A scrum turnover as the Farnham pack bludgeon back the Eastleigh scrum, fast hands through the backs and Elliot Rich at blistering pace over in the corner. The bonus point try and a superb wide out conversion from Toby Salmon. 22-3.
From the restart a good clearance from Farnham deep into the Eastleigh 22 – the visitors bolstered by their second row replacement burgle the line out and break out. No 8 and Skipper Paul Fudio on the charge, double tackled and obviously in trouble. A five minute interlude to assess and eventually stretcher him from the field. After enjoying a good performance the 8 laid low.
The changes spur on Eastleigh and it is Farnham’s turn to be in disarray. The referee who enjoyed, in the main, a fine match penalises Farnham twice in quick succession as Eastleigh drive into the home 22. At the second incident full back Ben Jones takes one for the team and is yellow carded for cynical play – in short, holding onto the ball when he shouldn't. Farnham on the retreat fall to a snipe by the whippet that is Rigglesford the Eastleigh scrum half. 22-8 as the game moves into the last 15 minutes.
Eastleigh collectively go for the throat – the next score will probably decide the outcome. Wave after wave founders on the pressure driven Farnham defence. In your face resistance and well-organised tackling drives back the Hampshire boys. Still they attack – disaster, a speculative pass picked off by Farnham’s arch predator Toby Comley and an 80 metre intercept try to break the Eastleigh resistance. Easy for Toby Salmon 29-8.
The Eastleigh collective head drop is evident – the worst possible outcome after nearly ten minutes of aggressive attacks. Back roar Farnham, their turn for the jugular. Comley over for a try. Referee unsighted calls them back. Scrum and Farnham go hunting. Penalty to the corner and the line out catch and drive finished with a Buster Bond crash land over the line. 34-8 with the failed conversion the final act.
A different game for Farnham – no big guns, but relentless support in attack and aggressive well organised defence. As the games mount up this combination will stand Farnham in good stead.
Skipper Andy Naisbitt delighted at the final whistle – a good birthday present for his 94 year old Grandfather and the rest of the family.
Second placed Old Reigatians next week – it will be a test. The squad continues to grow. Don't bet against the boys pulling off an away win.
Stand out performances from Ben Jones, Elliot Rich, Corlett and Michael Salmon with superb steerage from Ollie Brown and Toby Salmon in the backs. Up front both Bond and Akin-Olugbade showed their experience, the former proving his worth at the turnover.
These are exciting times with Jonny Davidson, Jason Frost, Ben Adams and Ian Williams putting in big shifts throughout. Finally Jules Joris and Lennie Jennings at the coal face gave back all that Eastleigh could muster.
Podium Points, however, go to:
Ollie Brown – 3. A great all round performance, covering play and two thundering tackles.
Toby Comley – 2. Always on hand, support, at the break down and ‘that try’.
Andy Naisbitt – 1. Captain’s example. A present for Grandad.