Champagne Rugby as Farnham enjoy 10 try romp
By Mark Weeks
With the sun on their backs, Farnham were rampant in their final game of the season.
This sort of performance has threatened on occasions all season. This was a perfect day for running rugby, risk taking and fun. The boys revelled in this one.
After a good start to the season Andover, having lost quite a number of key players to injury etc, have gradually slipped down the league table. Farnham have acted as the Grim Reaper for both Andover and Winchester over the last two weekends consigning both clubs to Division 3 and scoring a delightful 107 points in the process.
Andover began well down the slope. They have a very meaty front row and all three were used as human battering rams for the first frenetic ten minutes roared on by a sizeable crowd who had enjoyed their end of season vice president’s lunch.
The scene was set. Andover in a must win game and Farnham out to enjoy their last run out of the season.
The Andover heavies rumbled, the Farnham defence marshalled by Oli Brown. The short and stocky scrum half barked his instructions. (He would be impressive as Napoleon in an amateur production). The giant that is Pete Daly at No 8 dispensed bodies like rag dolls and clamping his hands on the ball to claim ownership. Nothing was going to spoil Farnham’s fun day out. The coach load of supporters had already started theirs.
Andover struggled and battled throughout the game and an early penalty for collapsing a maul gave them the initial lead. Their light flickered. But it was immediately extinguished by Farnham who put together some searing, fast-paced, sweeping and supported attacks.
Michael Salmon and Ed Weeks were direct and sledgehammer-like in the centre backed by the straight running of flankers Jonny Davidson and Gianluca da Nardi. The Andover defence never got to grips with the pace and support of the Farnham swarm as they raced to the try bonus point in fifteen minutes through tries from Joe Wigmore, Ed Weeks, Toby Salmon and Pete Daly. It could have been worse for the Hampshire men as Farnham managed to knock on over the try line and be called back twice for marginal forward passes.
Playing champagne, try everything rugby does, of course, lead to the occasional mistake and fair play to Andover they snapped at the heels all day. An intercept and down field hack put their winger across out wide with an excellent conversion from their young fly half. 10-24.
Still Farnham threw caution to the wind and another salvo saw Pete Daly crash over under the posts with what appeared to be half of the Andover pack holding on to him. Immense! Extras from Toby Salmon.
The young Farnham back three of Ben Jones at full back, Eliot Rich on the right wing and Joe Wigmore on the left - plus replacement winger Reece Stennett - were rampant all afternoon. Mazy running, support running, decoy running – all at sheer pace - were the order of the day. Collectively they were unfortunate not to add to the score but their support and driving play thrilled the spectators throughout the match.
After another kick and chase Andover forced another try wide-out to close the half at a flattering 15-31. It could have been so much worse. Their spirit and effort levels had not been broken but boy had they been run around the pitch. The question was ‘could they survive the second half?’ on what was becoming an extremely warm afternoon.
The Farnham half-time talk was orchestrated by Director of Coaching Gary Stennett and the coaches – former dual international Jamie Salmon and the Chisholm brothers Ross and James – all Harlequins. They have all done a superb job this season as Farnham entered the higher leagues. The emphasis was on keeping the ball and enjoying the last half of the season. So, more of the same but look after ‘the pill’.
After an initial surge of Andover intent, Farnham went back to work. That man Daly driven on by skipper Andy Naisbitt produced a delightful off load to Ed Weeks at pace. Try and easy bonus for Toby Salmon.
Another bout of near misses and Andover found themselves under the cosh, the defence was becoming increasingly desperate, the referee finally lost his patience sending their flanker to the bin. It was to prove a long ten minutes for the already beleaguered Hampshire boys. Penalty kicked to the corner where Ben Adams, peerless in the line out all game, took yet another off the top. Hooker Lennie Jennings and prop Jules Joris wrapped around for the drive to the line and the latter evergreen claiming the spoils.
There was not be let up of the pressure on the home defence. Jemi Akin Olugbade came on to the flank in lieu of Davidson who was shuffled to hooker to give Jennings a blow and James Franklin replaced the considerable bulk of Steve Simmons with his own. Both, eager to join the party, hit their straps immediately, Franklin smashing through the middle backed by centre Michael Salmon at full pace, on to Brown, Weeks and Rich. There to take the spoils in the oldest try scorer competition was Jemi with a delightful show and go. Easy for Salmon the younger and the 50 up.
The pace if anything increased and wave after wave of attacks crashed on to or through the Andover defence. The Salmon brothers in tandem and Michael was over for the try and Toby with the conversion – honours even. Both had produced on the day. Michael won and held on to eleven restarts, no mean feat as the restart ball hangs in the air and most of the opposition pack want to be underneath it as it falls – superb skills. Toby returned to his best form: pacey, audacious and with an eye for the tiniest gap.
As the game wound down Andover again managed to seize on a Farnham handling error to hack and chase down field for another well deserved try wide out.
Not to be outdone Farnham produced their own response with the last move of the season, an all team effort from their own 22, pulsating, slick and fast resulting in a try under the posts for a delighted Eliot Rich. Job done, the final score 20-64.
Farnham’s final league position 5th in London and South East league 2. Regrets? They’ll have a few. Seven games were lost by a score or less over the season. 21 league points “left on the pitch”. All in all, a season that had it all – elation and misery in similar doses. After all it’s only a game.
14 mins. Joe Wigmore try Toby Salmon conv.
16 mins. Ed Weeks try - conv hit post
25 mins. Toby Salmon try and conversion
29 mins. Pete Daly try. Conv missed.
34 mins. Pete Daly try. Toby Salmon conversion.
Half time 15-31
47 mins. Ed Weeks try. Toby Salmon extras.
54 mins. Jules Joris try. TS missed conv.
61 mins. Jemi try. TS conv.
65 mins. Mike Salmon try. TS conv.
73 mins. Eliot Rich try. TS conv.
Full time 20-64
Great romp to end the season and it could have been more. Certainly Reece Stennet, Ben Jones and Eliot all deserved more.
Pete Daly - 3 points at his brutal best.
Gianluca da Nardi - 2 points tackle after tackle.
Toby Salmon - 1 point - back to his best.