KCS pick and drive undoes Farnham fight back
By Mark Weeks
A poor first forty and an out-muscled pack delivers another agonisingly close loss.
Farnham and KCS were playing for pride and league position at Monkton Lane on Saturday. At the start of the day Farnham sat in 4th position, their highest league position in the club's forty-two years, KCS were just two points behind in 5th place.
The game went down to the last five minutes, Farnham - who had been poor in the first forty - had battered away at the KCS try line with a series of multi - phase attacks spearheaded by centres Corlett and Mike Salmon. The visitor's line stayed secure but the referee, who enjoyed a good game, awarded a penalty to Farnham. With the score at 15-17 there was only one decision. Toby Salmon bisected the posts and Farnham looked to have nicked the game by the narrowest of margins 18-17.
Farnham spilled the restart and offered KCS one more opportunity to respond - and respond they did. Penalty from Dugarin to the halfway line and a catch and drive with second row Young at the helm. The pick and drive and the slow rolling maul are techniques that only warm the hearts of rugby forwards or ex-forwards. To the viewing public this swirling mass of bodies does not offer entertainment. But it's effect is devastating and KCS had employed the tactic all afternoon with all of their tries coming from similar lengthy drives.
With the clock running down the drive moved ever closer to the Farnham try-line with an air of inevitability. Slowly the Farnham defence just ran out of numbers and the final surge saw Tyler burrow over for the winning try. KCS had worked hard for their win against an under-strength albeit dogged Farnham.
It all looked good for the home side in the early exchanges. Penalty on the half way line and a line out move had Jonny Davidson, who had another stand out game, straight and true to Ben Adams and quick ball to Oli Brown, all hustle and bustle, on to Corlett who powered through the KCS defence - again recycled ball and through the Salmon brothers to the lurking Elliot Rich - try wide out with two minutes gone. Great expectation from the big home crowd.
KCS had other ideas, fly half and captain Dugarin, who put in a flawless shift, pushed Farnham back into their 22 helped by the light breeze. From the line-out KCS lay down their marker. In rugby successive picks and goes, low to the ground literally smashing the defence every metre is physically exhausting. But it is so much more exhausting for the defenders. 20-15-10-5 metres to go and agonisingly for Farnham the final slump by Mason over the line. 5-5 with the conversion awry.
Farnham had no answer or – with some regular heavy weights missing from the pack - the bulk to combat the ongoing mauling threat. Comley, Adams and de Gruchy are built for a fast, loose game not for the debilitating nitty gritty. It was going to be a long afternoon.
In other areas Farnham did not help themselves. When they tried the pick and drive, the KCS back row predators Rawlinson and Buckingham enjoyed rich turnover pickings. Farnham were out-jackalled and outgunned in the close, gnarly exchanges.
On 22 minutes KCS penalty into the 22, everyone knew what was coming. Despite an early sack where the line out is immediately and so legally collapsed, the KCS forwards regrouped and slowly battered their way to the line. Jennings, Franklin and Davidson were bodies on the line but could do nothing to stop the inevitable. Rawlinson over for the try. 5-10.
No respite - another KCS penalty and a repeat, this time after successive picks and drives, Farnham collapse the maul. The referee has lost patience and awards a penalty try. Harsh but - given the dominance of the KCS forwards - fair. 5-17. KCS well and truly in the driving seat. For the last home fixture of the season this was, thus far, disappointing fayre for players and spectators alike. Farnham were being bullied out of sorts.
Second half and Farnham returned to show their character. Whatever was said in the dressing room seemed to have worked. Much more intent and direction, multi-phase attacks with Corlett and the back three of Wigmore, Rich and Jones prominent, KCS repeatedly pushed deeper into their 22. Pressure increasing and Farnham successfully picking and driving. Penalty and yellow card for Buckingham - persistent offending just three metres out.
From the next attack, Toby Salmon scurried over for a well worked try, giving himself an easy conversion. 12-17.
For much of the half KCS could not break out of their half but their well organised defence held firm. The attack and the defence effectively cancelled each other out. On the hour another Farnham attack was illegally halted. A cross field kick from Salmon to winger Chalker, on for the injured Rich. He was tackled in the corner and the recycled ball to Brown rifled into midfield where KCS deliberately knock on and penalty to Farnham - easy 3 and 15-17.
As the clock ran down to the final five minutes the pace, if anything, increased. This was all or nothing for both sides. de Nardi for Farnham over the halfway line and on to skipper Naisbitt, Marshall to Davidson - held but illegally, penalty 18-17 to Farnham and then that painful denouement.
Farnham 18-22 KCS Old Boys.
James Corlett - enjoying his best season – 3, Joe Wigmore - yards gained on every pass – 2, Ben Adams - not a good day for line outs but ruled the roost – 1