Chapeau Farnham - into playoff slot with famous win.
By Mark Weeks
The game began at a ferocious pace that was never to relent for the full 80 plus minutes
When second plays third something extraordinary is going to happen and this thunderous encounter did not disappoint. Farnham held on to beat the Old Alleynians (OA) by 24-20 as the referee teased the Farnham’s faithful supporters by playing almost 15 minutes of extra time.
The play offs loom for promotion to London 1. To put this in context Farnham, if successful, would next season play at National Level 6. Aldershot Town currently plays soccer at the equivalent level in the National League.
This game was up there with 2017’s cup semi-final win over Saltash and the Twickenham finale against Droitwich. The collisions were immense and the intensity and skills never dropped below maximum. A talented and committed Old Alleynians had come to win and the game began at a ferocious pace that was never to relent for the full 80 plus minutes.
Farnham, playing into the breeze from the Nursery End, put together a series of multi-phased attacks with, once again, the front row battering rams – Marco Azevado, Lennie Jennings and Jules Joris to the fore. However, Old Alleynians turned over the ball and gradually inched closer to the home try line and after a series of cutbacks, inspired by their mercurial fly half Josh Winduss, flanker Tom Shanahan smashed over under the posts giving Winduss an easy conversion.
The OA fly half ran the show with the breeze at his back he pushed Farnham deeper and deeper with delicately placed tactical kicking. Something had to give and a Farnham defender was deemed to have committed an high tackle. From the penalty Winduss made it 0-10 after 15 minutes. The Black and Whites at that stage had not managed to break in to the OA half. A score was now vital for Farnham.
Michael Salmon received a clearing kick and set off at pace. Deceptively quick and elusive, he made huge inroads into the OA defence. On to brother Toby who put in a superb cross kick to the unmarked winger Tom Cerullo. Try and Farnham back in the hunt with the extras from Salmon T.
There were a number of vital moments that shaped the course of this game. Two of these were sliced penalty attempts by the usually immaculate Winduss - six points abegging. Then, just on half time, a sustained OA attack into the Farnham 22 was battered back with such ferocity that it enabled a marauding Jordan Frost to attack the breakdown and win a relieving penalty.
The players deserved the half time break. The second period was to prove even more intense and competitive.
The back rows 6,7 and 8 on both sides and their respective second rows had slugged it out for forty minutes. There was parity in the set scrums and breakdown areas while Farnham through Ben Adams and Toby Comley stole valuable line out ball. Jennings, on song with his line out throwing, put in a huge shift around the fringes but the match winners and ball providers were the back five of Steve Simmons, Adams, Comley, Frost and man of the match, Jonny Davidson. All covered every blade of grass both in attack and defence.
This was kitchen sink, first to blink stuff. With the wind at their backs, Farnham could now force the OAs back into their own 22 with both Salmons putting boot to ball with howitzer-scale clearances. Pressure built on the visitors and after a sweeping move following a well drilled line out, Eliot Rich, on for Cerullo, slid over out wide. Toby Salmon was just off with the extras, but the lead now for Farnham 12-10.
The momentum and the increasing breeze were with Farnham and a huge Michael Salmon clearance once again pushed the OAs back. Corlett cut through the middle and pressure from Reece Stennett created the narrowest of gaps for skipper Ollie Brown to scamper through under the posts to a huge roar from the Monkton Lane balcony. The conversion was a formality for Salmon T and Farnham were two scores clear at 19 -10.
This began to feel like a timeless game. No one, including the referee it seemed, had a clue how much playing time was left. Farnham’s faithful supporters were on tenterhooks.
A try for OAs classy centre Will Beasley and the pressure was back on 19-15. Surely the clock was in the red? Not a bit of it! Again Farnham forced their way into the OA 22. Flying winger Reece Stennett put the OA defence under pressure, a scramble for the ball and fullback Ben Jones slid over in the corner: 24-15.
Still the clock ticked on giving OA enough time score their third, a hard earned try again through Beasley. The missed conversion ended a pulsating, nail biting, first class battle.
This was a tremendous, full-on performance right across the Farnham team sheet. Azevado, Jennings and Joris backed up by Conner Haynes off the bench battled in the scrum and around the fringes. Ben Adams and Steve Simmons in the row were regal throughout and the back row of Davidson, Comley and Ben Brown who came for an injured Jordan Frost tackled themselves into the ground. The back division scrapped, double tackled and stopped opportunities. Oli Brown sniped for his try. Toby Salmon was just everywhere. Brother Michael battered with each tackle and made huge clearance kicks. James Corlett made his tackles and made his ground. Stennett, Cerullo with Ben Jones and Rich Eliot off the bench in the back three were tremendous throughout.
The selection for President’s Podium was much debated - Bercow was needed but finally all agreed:
Jonny Davidson – 3, Michael Salmon – 2, Ben Adams - 1
The play-off race continues next Saturday when Farnham visit 10th placed London Exiles at their Barnes ground. A solid win is required before the final league game against play-off contenders Old Tonbridgians at Monkton Lane on 6th April.