Last minute win shows great heart and desire from Hornets team
When you look back at your rugby playing career, it’s the games like this that you remember.
With no league fixtures at all this weekend, the Hornets desperately wanted some rugby and travelled away for a fixture. As the rain poured down along the A3 and M25 it was very apparent that autumn had now arrived.
Unfortunately several players dropped out last minute which left the normally populous Hornets squad down to 16 players. Undeterred, the team arrived at Old Mid Whitgiftians as the rain began to ease-off.
Credit must immediately go to the numerous players who stepped out of their normal positions in this game. Farnham kicked off and initial exchanges were unsurprisingly error strewn, with a very slippery rugby ball in play. Strong carrying from James Kenna, Graeme Black and Andy Coutts got the team going forward, and kicks onward from Tom Martin looked to pin the OMW team back in their half.
Farnham disrupted the host’s lineout and frequently won penalties when opposition players went off their feet at the ruck. A strong attack from OMW, down the Farnham right flank, saw the bearded winger look to score in the corner. However James Kenna made a brilliant tackle, smashing the player over the touch line before he could get the ball down in the corner.
Further to and fro territory battles ensued, and Farnham focused on making their tackles in the midfield. To try and get into Farnham territory, OMW kicked and fullback Ben Mahony caught the high ball. He then proceeded to run down the right hand side and punted onwards down the side line. In doing so he got tackled over the white wash and landed awkwardly, turning an ankle. Thus ended his game and manager Sid Cranstone volunteered to take him to hospital to get it seen to. It was not a broken ankle and he is now on the mend. This introduced Farnham’s first and only substitute, club stalwart Karl Brown, to play alongside his son Ben.
A great driving maul from the forwards gained 30 yards down field but the Hornets couldn’t score. OMW then got back into Farnham territory, before a great turnover in the middle of the park sprung the Farnham backs to attack down the right hand side. Adam Hailstones attacked with pace, weaving round and through defenders, before he passed to Tom O’Connor who finished in the corner, scoring his first try for a Farnham senior team.
Now ahead 0-5, Farnham looked to consolidate, however it wasn’t long before a sweeping move by the opposition, and a try under the posts, gave the home team a 7-5 lead. Unfortunately Will Jackson, playing out of position in the second row, fearlessly threw himself into a tackle and broke a pair of ribs. He’s now out for a few weeks to heal up.
Credit must also go to the referee, who was eager to let the match flow, but equally recognised when a serious injury had occurred. The referee was consistent throughout and particularly penalised both teams for not supporting their body weight at the ruck (and bridging over the ball with their elbows on the ground).
Winger Tom O’Connor had to leave the game shortly before half time after taking a knock to the head – an unfortunate end to what had been a great first half for him and for the team.
Having switched ends, OMW gave Farnham a player to bolster their numbers (this was after all a non-league fixture) and the sun came out to help evaporate some of the rain that had fallen for the previous three hours.
The second half saw Farnham take a firmer, more structured grip of the game. Karl Brown marshalled the forwards, and the backs got clean ball from Ben Brown to enact some training ground moves. Centre Adam Hailstones was able to carve through the defensive line several times and even converted lock Mark Baines popped up in the back line to help the Hornets score in the corner.
The Hornets bagged another try later in the half thanks to some great phase play and then the unsuspecting marauder, Adam Hailstones crashed over from five yards out. Tom Martin converted the score to allow Farnham to take a 7-17 lead.
This match seemed to pass with one incident after another, and next James Kenna, who would win the award as man of the match, took a knock to the head and was forced to go off. He joined his good friend Tom O’Connor on the side line, where they watched on, both slightly dazed!
OMW were again very generous, offering Farnham another player (now there were only 12 Farnham players and two additional OMW players!), and the last quarter of the match began. OMW sensed blood and with their man advantage, tiring Farnham legs, and real urgency in their play, they spun the ball wide and stretched the Farnham defence to breaking point.
Despite some great cover tackling by the likes of Tom Martin, Ben Brown and Josh Curran, two unconverted tries were yielded and this took the teams level at 17-17, going into the final few minutes.
Farnham refocused. They knew they had to keep the ball. Some string crash ball running in midfield from Oli Richford and good forward carrying got them into the opposition half. Then, the defence now expecting another crash ball, Tom Martin executed an excellent looping move and the sprinted through a gap, weaving round the fullback and diving over! He then scored the conversion to take Farnham ahead 17-24.
All that was left was for Farnham to receive the kick-off, maul the ball for a phase, and then punt into touch to the seal the victory. This was a fantastic fixture (apart from the injuries!) and the Hornets team can be very proud of the effort that was put in by everyone.
During the week following the game Old Mid Whitgiftians reached out to Farnham to make sure the players that got injured were OK – a tribute to the spirit the game was played in.
Written by Oli Richford.