Farnham put it all together for dominant display
By Mark Weeks
Bonus point secured by half time and in control for most of the 80 minutes.
On a windless, cold afternoon at Monkton Lane, Farnham put their training, shape and individual skills together to create a dominant display against Gosport and Fareham – to whom they had narrowly lost away earlier in the season. Farnham’s try bonus point was secured by half time and but for a couple of defensive lapses, Farnham controlled the game for the full 80 minutes.
From the moment that Gosport and Fareham (G&F) knocked-on the kick-off to Farnham’s first try, the game was played in the G&F half. That in those fifteen minutes Farnham could only take a penalty goal by Toby Salmon paid tribute to the well organised G&F defence. However, after tackling themselves into the ground, the gaps started to appear.
The hefty Farnham scrum – Williams, Davidson and Joris up front and Franklin and Adams in the row, was dominant. The backs were ably launched by replacement Ollie Wetton, in for Ollie Brown who had taken the opportunity to visit Rome and tick an England away game off the list.
Outside the ever-dangerous Toby Salmon at 10 was the experienced centre pair of elder brother Mike and the lethal finisher, James Corlett. Unlike last week, the back three speedsters of Weeks, Scullian and Wigmore would see plenty of ball in this encounter. Indeed, it was a flowing back move that saw Weeks held just short before the pack picked and dove a couple of times to release Daly for the opening try.
Farnham’s exit from the G&H restart was not the best and it was left to full back Wigmore to wriggle through the chasers. However, he was tackled, stripped of the ball and quick hands put the G&S centre in under the posts. G&F No10 10 Alex Duncombe made no mistake with the conversion and on 17 minutes it was 8-7. Farnham now knew they would be promptly punished for any mistakes.
But they are now a well-drilled side and mistakes – save at some crucial line outs - were rare. And when the mistakes did happen, Farnham had the skill and shape to put them right. For example, in the next play, G&F conceded the penalty which Jack Scullion booted from inside his half to the corner - inch perfect. But the lineout failed, and G&F cleared well down field. Weeks returned the ball, found the support, and after several immaculate phases Corlett is over out wide. Conversion missed, its 13-17 on 25 minutes.
The G&F restarts had a pattern as did Farnham’s response. Duncombe would launch his kick into the Farnham 22 where it was gathered by Mike Salmon who hoofed it back into G&F territory forcing them to begin their attack with the lottery of a line out.
Another Farnham line out mishap gave G&F the opportunity to break out and earn a penalty from Farnham’s scramble defence. Duncombe hit the post with the attempt. As Farnham carried the ball out, G&F were caught offside and Scullian’s boot launches the ball from one 22 to the other. From a successful lineout, another controlled, multi-phased attack sees Ian Williams crashing over from 5 yards. The relatively simple conversion is missed. 18-7 on 36 minutes.
Following the restart routine, M. Salmon’s boot put the G&F wing under pressure and he dropped the ball into touch on his own 22. In a repeat of earlier tries, it was a case of supporting the player on the deck – where flankers Adams and De Gruchy excelled – quickly recycling and putting the big ball carriers - Daly, Williams and Franklin – into gaps to exploit. The wholes punched, Corlett goes for the finish. He was held inches sort but the-not-insignificant bulk of Franklin bulldozes the ball over the line. Salmon successful with the conversion and its 25-7 as the clock ticks toward half time.
Farnham’s ability to gather the restart misfired and G&F were quick to punish. Firing a penalty kick to the corner, G&F won their line out and gave their own demonstration of fluid attack to score a converted try.
25-15 at half time. The Faithful were pleased with the performance but slightly on edge as, after recent turnarounds, the match was far from over.
The second half opened brightly. After a knock-on at a Farnham line out, there was the set scrum to attack and set things aright. Scrappy ball from the base was turned over and with the G&F backs out of position, Jack Scullion had the pace and the space to jink and step the defence for a well finished try. Salmon T converts and Farnham are pulling away at 32-14.
The next try gladdened the hearts on the Farnham balcony. No 9 Wetton, who was an accomplished distributor all match, saw the gap and chose to pick and go. And go he did! A couple of sumptuous dummies and he was in under the posts from 35 meters out. T Salmon conversion was good and at 39-14 G&F were now playing for pride – and a bonus point.
G&F responded to the challenge with some powerful running off the inside ball which opened the Farnham defence for them to score a converted try. At 34-21 they were now playing for something more. Concerted attacks were met with equally concerted defence. A break down, turnover and Toby Salmon broke down the left. As the cover defence closed in, a delightful inside pop pass freed Weeks to show some pace in an arcing run to the corner and its 44-21. The long conversion attempt is missed but G&F are back to square one.
G&F’s search for the bonus point resumed as did Farnham’s well-drilled defence. With the maximum points secured, the last 15 minutes saw Farnham content to soak up the G&F pressure and deny them anything from the game until the final whistle blew.
The President’s Podium was discussed by a number of club luminaries at the bar and the consensus was Pete Daly was undoubtedly man of the match – as is usual.
However, to ring the changes and mix things up a bit, your correspondent approached Pete to get his view. “Only one man for me. With his restart returns, hard defence and consistent line breaks – Mike Salmon,” said Daly. “It was nice to see the backs score tries and Mike played a part in most of them.”
President’s Podium: Mike Salmon 3, James Corlett 2 – a threat all game, Reese De Gruchy – tackled and tackled and cleared out the ruck – 1. An honourable mention goes to Ollie Wetton at scrum half who had a great game and scored the try of the match.