Farnham blow away the cobwebs….and Gosport
By Mark Weeks
Gosport and Fareham, one of Hampshire's premier clubs, is a difficult fixture for Farnham.
Report by Geoff Bond
A stiff wind off the Solent and rain generally play their part at their harbour-side ground, so the still, chilly conditions on Saturday suited the Surrey side.
The young referee, a former University of the Creative Arts student, started proceedings. Farnham lost the corresponding fixture 20-11 on a windy, rainswept day in September. The black and whites were determined to put things aright and immediately went on the rampage. Ball retention was the plan and seventeen accurate phases later the Farnham boys managed to spill the ball on the Gosport 5-meter line. Was this this to be the story of the afternoon?
After this bright start, Farnham were untidy in the early stages of the match and were pushed back by the Hampshire XV. The pressure told, and a penalty was awarded to Gosport for some skullduggery by the home defence providing an easy 3 points for Holling. Farnham responded immediately with a length of the pitch breakout. The ball swept out to left wing Reece Stennet who made 40 metres before quick hands through Michael Salmon, the man of the match, and James Corlett freed up the ubiquitous Toby Comley for the first score for Farnham. 5-3 a lead that was never surrendered.
The Farnham boys were beginning to blow the Christmas cobwebs away and another breakout saw fly half Toby Salmon bounce through four tackles to slide over out wide. The writing was on the wall for Gosport. Farnham were starting to rumble.
Farnham’s No.8 Rob Mitchell stole the ball under the posts to end a determined Gosport attack, and a monster clearance by Toby Salmon took play back to the halfway line. Ben Adams snaffled the ball at the Gosport lineout to free up the backs. The pressure was too much for the Hampshire boys. Penalty to Farnham and a well-orchestrated catch and drive allowed skipper Ollie Brown to plunge over for the score. 15-3.
Back came Gosport, their rangy 4 Woodford enjoying good Line out ball. Success at two catch and drives threatened the home try line. However, the Farnham blitz defence turned over the Gosport drive and hammered through the phases to win a penalty in the Gosport 22. Sensing blood the Farnham boys went for the jugular and kicked for the corner and from the ensuing lineout, hooker Ben Brown plunged over for the bonus point try after the line. Mother Jo Brown on the balcony was delighted - two tries from her boys. 20-3 and the 5 points seemingly secure at half time.
The attritional second half showed the intensity of the rugby at this level. Gosport, determined throughout, threw everything at Farnham. However, their inside pop pass tactic was both readable and stoppable. The home wraparound defence stood firm. The drills were working.
Farnham’s front row of Marco Azevedo, Ben Brown and Andy Coutts dominated the Hampshire boys around the fringes, at the scrum and in open play while the pairing of Ben Adams and Steve Simmons in the row gave the home scrum a much-needed balance.
As Gosport put in their umpteenth phase of attack, eventual man of the match Michael Salmon stole the ball at the breakdown and sprinted 50 metres for the try. Heart-breaking for the visitors. With the extras for brother Toby 27-3, surely they would fold?
Gosport pride dictated otherwise and wave upon wave crashed on to the Farnham red zone - the 22 area where chances are made only to be battered back. The Farnham defence was defiant. The wraparound organised and the trusted Blitz defence snuffed out the Hampshire marauders.
Eventually Farnham break out and flying young winger Reece Stennett made 40 metres before transferring inside to Toby Salmon. Momentum built, Ollie Brown was on hand to free up Corlett who with the help of the back row of Comley, Mitchell and Welch split Gosport’s defence apart and went over for a superb team try. 32 - 3. It was a difficult day for Toby Salmon from the kicking tee.
True spirit from the Hampshire boys who showed their mettle by driving into the home 22. The referee was unimpressed with a Ben Jones body check and after a lengthy lecture, showed the yellow card to the talented fullback. Farnham, down to 14 men were under the cosh at the penalty scrum and quick ball for Gosport saw winger Taylor over for a consolation try. 32-8.
Farnham desperate for the Marquee finish battled back and another full-length attack saw hooker Ben Brown over out wide for his pair. The rust and cobwebs had been blown away and the persistent and determined Gosport boys eventually put away 37-8.
Presidents Podium Points.
Michael Salmon - 3 outstanding throughout, Toby Comley - 2 back to his best and just everywhere, Rob Mitchell - 1 involved and efficient all game.