Farnham win bruising encounter
By Mark Weeks
Superb season opening performance marred by injuries. Written by Geoff Bond, Club President.
Farnham travelled to Wimbledon RFC to take on Old Tonbridgians (OTs) for the opening fixture of the season. OTs are a nomadic club who normally play their home games at Richmond RFC. The fixture was switched as the Richmond grounds were badly affected by the dry summer.
Conditions were nigh perfect – a good temperature and a teasing breeze across the pitch. Season 2018/19 was ready to go.
Early attacks from Farnham, driven on by new skipper Pete Daly and his vice-captain 'le General Petit' Olly Brown, end on the Old Tonbridgians (OTs) five metre line but the attacker is isolated and penalised for not releasing. In the sixth minute, the OTs attacked but the sweeping move was broken up by the high-pressure Farnham defence. Farnham’s James Corlett and Michael Salmon in the centre closed down the OTs midfield and Toby Salmon seized the half chance with a controlled hack and chase to put the visitors ahead. His conversion attempt from wide out clipping the post. 0-5.
The game was beginning to take shape, the forward battle at the scrum and the line out catch-and-drive was comprehensively in the home court. In the back divisions, Farnham were sharper and more aggressive.
On 9 minutes a break-out spearheaded by back rowers Daly and Toby Comley freed up the backs who put Comley himself over in the corner. Conversion success for Toby Salmon - 0-12.
Farnham were in control but constantly incurred the wrong end of the referee's decisions. Ben Adams was binned on 17 minutes for putting his foot on an opposition player in the ruck. Albeit an innocuous example of “stamping”, the laws are the laws. Shorthanded, the Farnham defence was overcome for the first time as Jamie Rushmere powered over for an unconverted OT try. 5-12.
This was becoming a game of two structures. The OTs front row of Johnson, Messara and Harris dominated their opposite numbers in both the scrum and the driving maul making yards and yards. Farnham in loose play through Jonny Davidson, Buster Bond, Toby Comley and Jordan Frost were ruling the roost at the breakdown and in open play.
Farnham were hit by a double blow on the half hour as first Jordan Frost went off for a head injury assessment (HIA) and Buster Bond was similarly detained. Bond was able to return to the fray, but Frost saw no further action.
It was still nip and tuck, full on rugby, physical, intense and committed. OT’s Jamie Rushmere received a reciprocal card for a stamping offence. Farnham made the most of the one-man advantage and a mass, well-supported break out put flying winger Eliot Rich over in the corner. Following a superb conversion from Toby Salmon, its 5-19 at the break.
The start of the second half and Fortune played her tricks. A swarming attack led by Pete Daly and Buster Bond, carried on through winger Reece Stennet and the ubiquitous Jonny Davidson ended with a try for the rampaging Michael Salmon. Extras from brother Toby 5-26. That was the good news.
However, both Pete Daly and Ben Adams were injured in the attack. Time for the cavalry. On came the “benchies” Olly “BT” Banks-Thomas, Ed Weeks with Moses Kuralala, Farnham's new Fijiian player. The reshuffle put Lennie Jennings at hooker, BT and Moses in the front row with winger Ed Weeks on the flank.
The scrum and line out drive was a problem for Farnham throughout and with Farnham’s pack depleted, OTs smelt blood. A succession of driving mauls and OT second row James Lineham broke away to plunder a well-deserved try. 10-26.
Despite the changes, Farnham went for the pressure game with Comley and Corlett to the fore and Buster Bond and Oli Brown calling the shots. Line speed defence and a controlled hack and chase saw Eliot Rich over for his brace supported by the admirable Ben Jones. 10-33 with the Toby Salmon extras.
OTs were still in the game, but the Farnham defence was building the frustration. A penalty to Farnham and an opportunity to kill the game off. Close in support and a drive into the home 22. Corlett over for the game clincher. Well deserved.
With the clock running down OTs mounted a last series of challenges up front and secured a deserved bonus point with more two tries.
This was a good start to the Farnham season against a club that has always trouble them – only one win out of previous six fixtures in this league. The injury disruption could have caused problems but the 'benchies', BT, Moses and Ed Weeks in particular, played their part in a superb season opening performance. A win by 20-40.
The fingers will be crossed over the injury list as the boys get ready for next Saturday's fixture against old rivals Effingham and Leatherhead.
Stand out performances from Jonny Davidson, Buster Bond, Oli Brown, Michael Salmon, Reece Stennet and Ben Jones but the points go to:
Eliot Rich – 3, Toby Salmon - 2, James Corlett - 1