Second half shut out sees Farnham home
By Mark Weeks
What a game it was!
This Saturday was a proud day for Farnham who fielded five teams including 98 players with wins for the 1sts, the Vikings (2s) at Esher, the Warriors (3s) at home to Camberley and the Barbarians (4)s at Racal Decca. The only slight blemish was L’Escargots (the Vets) losing at home to Richmond Heavies by a last-minute penalty try.
Farnham welcomed Old Emanuel (OE) for the return London 2 South West fixture – the main fayre of the afternoon. A sweeping wind blew across the pitch reducing the chill to just above freezing. A different temperature to the September fixture in New Malden where Farnham squeaked a 27-24 victory. Thankfully it was a running game to keep the three quarters warm and what a game it was.
Farnham started into the breeze and, against the run of recent performances, the scrum started with immediate domination. The front row of Marco Azevado, Ben Brown (in for the injured Kouris) and Andy Coutts put the early pressure on. The referee from the Gloucester Society could have, at this early stage, set the standard for the scrums as Farnham shunted the OE pack back 15 metres. Eventually, with the Black and Whites keeping the pressure on, a penalty is awarded which Toby Salmon chipped to the corner for the dominant forwards to feast on.
A well-timed line out created quick ball. The hungry Farnham backs pounced like predators to put debutante winger Tom Cerullo over for the opening try - after some successful juggling. A great kick by Toby Salmon into the wind from wide out and Farnham were at the races. 7-0.
Was it going to be too easy? Farnham may have thought this the case, but OE immediately responded through their classy back division. Hewitt to Whiteley who went through a gaping hole in the home back three. Try and an easy 2 extras for talented fly half Whiteley.
OE was beginning to move into gear. Their classy, speedy back division stretched the Farnham boys. Gambling on the available space, the visitors went for broke and a sweeping attack saw winger Cuff-Burnett over for a superb score at the corner flag. 7-12 as the kick drifted wide. OE took advantage of the teasing breeze to play territorial rugby forcing Farnham back into their 22. Penalty and more easy points for OE winger Powell-Voegt. 7-15.
Stung into action and roared on by the home crowd, Farnham full back Ben Jones broke into the OE half and a jinking, powerful run sees him slide over wide out. 12-15. With halftime approaching and their last play into the breeze, Farnham exerted maximum pressure on the visitors. The referee deemed the OE defence illegal allowing Toby Salmon to equalise with a penalty at the break. 15-15.
The biting wind increased, and the rain joined in to give the meteorological advantage to Farnham which they fully exploited during the second period. The OE visits to the Farnham half were fleeting at best as monster kicks from the Salmon brothers pushed the visitors back time and again. The first score in the half would be crucial and Farnham were in the ascendancy probing the visitors defence. At last a defensive mix up and a scruffy hack on put Toby Salmon in for a try. They all count and with the extras Farnham moved to 22-15.
Time to go for the jugular! Ben Adams and Steve Simmons in the row were making inroads and eventual man of the match Rob Mitchell, whose must have carried for 100 metres throughout the match, eventually broke the resolve of the OE defence. To their credit OE did not kick away possession at any stage as they battled into the wind. But too much pressure and they conceded another penalty to the Black and Whites – 25-15 from the trusty boot of Toby Salmon.
The wind allowed Farnham to pen the visitors back into their own half and so to control the game. OE withstood the pressure to belie their eighth position in the league. Their talented backs and a tenacious pack of fit and fast forwards contested throughout.
Penalty to Farnham and after another successful Toby Salmon kick to the corner, replacement hooker Jonny Davidson picked out Adams and the drive was on. This was held but skipper Oli Brown managed to free up James Corlett on the charge. His offload put Michael Salmon over and the lead stretched to 32-15 with the conversion from younger brother Toby.
With the bonus point secure Farnham could afford to relax but instead chose to give their loyal supporters a treat!
Centre James Corlett received the restart on Farnham’s own 22. He popped the ball inside to winger Eliot Rich at pace. The score was outrageous! Untouched throughout, Rich skinned the entire OE defence to plunge over at the corner 80 metres later. A deserved standing ovation from the crowd and the match done and dusted 37-15.
The Black and Whites back to their winning ways and back to second in the league with Eastleigh losing at Twickenham. A play off place beckons and with seven of the 2017 Cup Final team making their comebacks for the Warriors, the strength in depth is on the rise. Luke Batten, Dan and Ian Williams, Lennie Jennings, James Trodden, James Franklin and Jason Crabb would improve most sides at this level. Exciting times indeed with Toby Comley, Andrew Naisbitt, Buster Bond, Jemi Akin-Olugbade and, of course, skipper Pete Daly to return, at last things are looking rosy after an injury riddled season.
Presidents podium (difficult when the match was so intense with all totally committed)
1. Rob Mitchell – 3 points led throughout tidied, carried, serious gain line advantages.
2. Toby Salmon – 2 points always a presence – just everywhere.
3. Marco Azevado – 1 point dominated with Coutts in the front row.