Farnham out thought by Sheasby inspired Eagles
Spirit and shape created by former England back rower Chris Sheasby enough to ensure Effingham took the spoils
The pitch, a couple of hundred yards from the clubhouse, had posts that had suffered at the hands of vandals and an agricultural surface. The team is second from bottom of the league. There seemed little to offer from Effingham. However, the spirit and shape created by former England back rower Chris Sheasby was enough to ensure that Effingham took the spoils - just!
When rugby is played in gale force winds, sleet and icy rain, slippery surface and a ball like a bar of soap, the first rule is to win. To enjoy that result, the second rule is to keep the ball.
Effingham played their pop and go game far better than Farnham. Their choke tackles and gang tackles ensured they turned over maul after maul. Their multi-phase attacks in the second half frustrated Farnham. In short, a bad day at the office for the Farnham boys. Out manoeuvred, no excuses, no 'we've got to take the positives'. That this 13-12 game hinged on a last-minute conversion, was not a true reflection.
Effingham bossed the bulk of the game with their mercurial fly-half Brian Collins pulling the strings. If Farnham had sneaked a win it would have been hollow and 'hand on heart' undeserved. Toby Salmon's last kick attempt drifted just wide. Justice done.
A miserable day for sport – even rugby. The wind and rain swept across the pitch. The Australian referee seemed determined to stamp his authority. The first fifteen minutes was restricted to the mid-third of the pitch. Effingham – playing with the wind - probed through Collins whose kicks for territory pinned the visitors back. In conditions like this, the activity is hard, attritional and territorial. Tackles were brutal, contacts bordering on terminal, no quarter in these street-fight encounters.
After 15 minutes of sparring, the howling gale took its toll. With Pete Daly driving on his forwards - Yeomans, Davidson and Jennings backed by Franklin and Ian Williams, Farnham battered into the home half with ball retention at a premium. But one slip and the ball was returned 50-60 metres for the whole process to start again. The breakaway back row trio of Reece de Gruchy, Ben Adams and the ever more impressive Pete Daly tidying up and driving into the heart of the home defence.
The Australian referee seemed oblivious to the Effingham scrum being shunted back 15 metres with no infringement and, with that advantage nullified, Effingham drive back and earn a penalty from Farnham offside in mid field in front of their posts. The penalty was easy for Collins. 3-0.
The sparring continued with multi-phase attacks from both sides with the Eagles enjoying superiority in the contact. A repeat penalty infringement by Farnham and Collins makes it 6-0.
As the half wound down and Farnham continued to batterinto the gale, Effingham mounted one final attack from a driving maul and scored a try by the posts. Collins made sure of the conversion and it was 13-0 at half time.
Still the wind and rain swept across the pitch as the second half kicked off. Was it a “13-point” wind?
Effingham protecting their lead produced attack after attack, pick-and-drive after pick-and-drive inspired by their well-drilled pack marshalled by Sheasby who, at 50 years old, came on for, what would prove to be a testing second half.
Farnham were under the cosh from Effingham’s impressive tactics. With excellent ball retention, their sweeping multi-phase attacks were spoiled only by the last pass or a knock-on. Farnham, dominant in the set piece scrum, would win the ball and launched it down field only for Effingham to restart their offensive. This was not Farnham's game plan as the clock ominously runs down.
The backs prompted by scrum half Oli Brown and backed by the Salmon brothers spent the afternoon battling for opportunities. Corlett made yards but wingers Weeks and Rumpson were frustrated - a day of cold hands and swarming defence.
On the hour, success for Farnham! Toby Salmon put a penalty kick to the corner where a well worked catch and drive from the line out (which hitherto had not worked well) and Lenny Jennings touches down from base of the maul. The try was converted by Toby Salmon - 13-7.
The last 10 minutes saw the Farnham crowd on edge and the Effingham supporters nail-biting looking for their third win of the season.
As the clock ran down, Farnham win another penalty which Toby Salmon nails to the corner. Again, in the last play of the match, Farnham’s catch and drive works and Ian Williams battered over for a try. 13-12 and the conversion to win it. Alas for Farnham, Toby Salmon - Mr Reliable in a swirling wind – pushed the attempt just wide and the final whistle blew.
There is no such thing as a sure thing in this league. On this day, sides in the bottom half of the London Two South West league played opposition from the upper half and, except for runaway league leaders Camberley, the higher sides lost. Therefore, despite their loss, Farnham retain their mid-table slot – but if these one-point defeats do not become good wins soon, the slot looks vulnerable. Next week Farnham play Gosport and Fareham at Monkton Lane. KO 2.30.
Pete Daly again - 3 points. Stand in captain and it suits him. Huge effort and lead from the front.
Reece de Gruchy - 2. Huge engine. Go forward and tackled everything that moved.
James Corlett - 1. Did the hard yards - enjoying his best season.