Dogged performance not enough at Old Alleynians
By Mark Weeks
OAs were allowed into top gear only sporadically but when they did, they were far too potent for a battling Farnham side.
Four tries to one accurately reflects the difference between the sides on the day and in the London South West 2 league table.
Farnham battled throughout and for the first twenty minutes, playing into a stiff breeze, were territorially in the driving seat. Wave after attacking wave inched the visitors ever closer to the OAs try line but each time either their defence held firm or a handling error butchered the opportunity. Spirited enthusiasm was not enough to convert the chances.
OAs are a good side, recently demoted from London South 1. Their intention is to bounce back. They and KCS Old Boys are increasing the gap between themselves and the rest of the pack and the evidence was illustrated here. Having weathered the early Farnham attacking thrusts, two pieces of opportunism saw the OAs score two stunning tries, both wide out and at high pace after breaking out the length of the pitch.
The Farnham defence, marshalled by centres Mike Salmon and James Corlett, and spearheaded by the back row of Comley, Davidson and Ben Brown worked hard all game. However, the home half-backs Purkiss and James increasingly dominated the shape of the game and pulled that defence apart. For the second try a three-man OA overlap allowed winger Harris to stroll over unopposed. At 12-0 the home backs seemed likely to overwhelm the Farnham defence despite having only thirty percent of the ball.
The platform for a convincing home win had been established but it was Farnham, with less panache but a bucket full of determination, who set the tone for the first quarter with OAs desperate defence conceding four penalties in as many minutes. Toby Salmon went to the corner on three occasions for a normally clockwork catch and drive - surely one would work. Frustrated Farnham were beaten back or knocked on at each attempt.
Both defences reigned supreme and the bulk of the game in the second quarter took place between the 22 metre lines. As half time approached James dummied an audacious drop goal attempt from the half way line which opened up the momentarily distracted Farnham defence. The path to the posts was open and James glided through to put centre Dobson in for the try. 19-0 at half time.
OAs had enjoyed much less possession and territory but had taken three of their four chances. Farnham on the other hand had battered at the door but just could not find the key. The back three of tyros Chalker, Wigmore and Rich all came close but just came up short.
Farnham bristled defiance in the second half just as they had the first. Playing down the slope Farnham began to settle into their patterns and with Toby Salmon pulling the strings, the OAs were forced into more and more defensive positions. A sweeping move down the right wing saw Corlett free up Eliot Rich to score in the corner. At last, after the frustration, 19-5 and the chance to battle for a bonus point or two.
Still the defences held sway and the momentum swung back towards OAs as the clock ran down. Off the bench centre, Cunningham running fast and direct was making severe dents in the visitor’s defence. He eventually wriggled and squirmed his way over for the match clincher. James adding the extras with the last kick of the match. 26-5 and a seemingly easy home win.
Farnham had battled, scrapped and tackled for the whole of the eighty minutes their fitness could not be questioned but for OAs the job was done a five-point bonus win and a league second place cemented.
Presidents Podium: Michael Salmon - tackled himself into oblivion - 3 points, James Corlett - the same - 2 points, Andrew Coutts - a front row rock – 1
While the 1st XV struggled away, the club’s strength in depth was ably illustrated by the 2nd XV’s demolition at home of the Surrey Premiership league leaders Richmond Jutes (5th XV) by 49 points to 12.