Gosport Grit and Monsoon too much for Farnham
By Mark Weeks
Written by Geoff Bond, Club President
Gosport are rapidly becoming Farnham’s bogey club. On the last three fixtures the heavens have opened and the winds have howled – no difference at Dolphin Crescent yesterday as Farnham made the trip to the coast.
With the rain drifting across the pitch Farnham played into the wind in the first half. Early sparring at full intensity officiated busily by the Hampshire Society referee. Gosport have started their season with two heavy defeats so this was an opportunity to show their supporters their true mettle. Conversely Farnham have enjoyed two impressive wins but with injuries and a ‘club stag weekend’ it was time for a few of the second team to step up and show their skills.
After the initial exchanges Farnham began to raise the pressure. The backs, marshaled by stand in skipper Oli Brown began to flow with good quick ball. Then the first of a series of setbacks. James Corlett, who has enjoyed a purple period over the last three seasons crashed into his opposite number and suffered a claret-filled gash over his eye. A pure accident but first blood to Gosport.
At the ensuing scrum, Farnham’s dominant flanker Rees De Gruchy was similarly damaged – cut over the eye. Two down in the first five minutes. Already the gods seemed mischievously against the visitors.
Dan Jones on for Corlett and Marco Azevado on for de Gruchy. Despite the disruptions, the Farnham pack were in the ascendancy forcing back the seemingly larger home forwards. Enough from the referee and a somewhat rare penalty to Farnham. Three points to Toby Salmon.
Gosport fired back determined to use the wind and rain advantage. The Farnham defence held firm as each wave of attack crashed on the black and white wall. But not without cost. Both Jules Joris and Toby Salmon sustain shoulder injuries. Gareth Yeomans on for Joris in the front row but Salmon, clearly injured taking one for the team, stayed on with the substitutes’ bench empty.
This was a brutal spectacle. The ball like a bar of soap made possession a premium. The mistakes, spills and knock-ons mounted. At the scrum Farnham held the upper hand and had parity at the line outs but there was slightly more grit from Gosport at the breakdown. Two penalties were missed in the swirling rain by the usually flawless Toby Salmon, so honours about even as half-time approached.
A last foray by the under-the-cosh home side exposed a chink in a Farnham defence that was on the back foot following a string a of adverse refereeing decisions. Try to the Gosport wing plus the extras. 7-3 at half time.
There was no respite for players and spectators as the wind and rain increased. Farnham had the weather advantage however Gosport continued to force the pace with one well-crafted attack after another based on the-ball-up-the-jumper rolling maul. Pperfect for the conditions. ‘Keep the pill’ is an old adage that is particularly apt in the wind and rain. The team with the ball forces the opposition back and creates penalty opportunities. This was the case yesterday. 10-3 to Gosport.
The pace was relentless and the conditions worsening. Accuracy and cutting out mistakes was the key to the match. Another penalty to Gosport who opted to kick to the corner. Accurate with throw and the catch-and-drive over a formality – undefendable. 15-3.
At last the Farnham boys began to penetrate. Yeomans, Jennings and Thompson brought their not inconsiderable weight to bear to punish the Gosport pack at the scrum. With the second row of Simmons and Azevado adding the power, the home side were shunted around the pitch. The referee, however, did not reward the dominance. The frustration mounted for the Farnham heavies.
At last a penalty! Salmon to the corner, catch-and-drive at the line out and Yeomans emerged from under the pile for the try. 15-8.
Still the Farnham side crashed forward driven on by Williams, Ben Adams, Moses Kurulala and the evergreen Akin-Olugbade. Penalty to Farnham under the posts 15-11.
The penalty count was high for both sides, mistakes were countless and the frustration continued. Two penalties close in for Farnham where they won their scrums but the Gosport defence spat defiance. Grit and determination began to win the day. Farnham battered back but were hindered by poor decision making. The old heads on the touchline muttered as three penalties shots at goal were turned down and two were missed. This proved costly.
With five minutes to go the Gosport eight went on another well-structured mauling drive. Maul – penalty – line out – maul – penalty to the corner – line out – maul – Try. Simple. The last slap in the face for the frustrated and battered Farnham XV. 20-11.
Despite the loss, the Farnham boys were always in the game. Some decisions were wrong. Sometimes the game plan faltered. But in the end Farnham’s brave and dogged performance was out-gritted and out-thought tactically.
President’s Podium, Dan Williams – 3, Ben Adams – 2, Marco Azevedo – 1 ditto.