Heroic fight back by the Warriors
By Mark Weeks
Farnham Rugby’s 3rd XV fought back from 0-17 down against Teddington 3rd XV to secure a magnificent 24-22 victory
... and their place in the final of the Surrey RFU President’s Chalice. The match was a tussle between Farnham’s heavier forwards and Teddington’s pacier backs. While Farnham had worked together all season to secure fourth place in their league, Teddington had a scratch side united for this fixture. It was that close-knit unit that showed a Monkton Lane balcony packed with club officials, senior players, friends and family what team spirit is all about.
The pattern of the game was established from the kick off as the Farnham heavies, led in both the tight and open play by props Guy Williams and Lee Cobb and hooker Ryan Goodwin, punched up toward the Teddington line. But Teddington’s predatory back row turned over the ball at the breakdown and the ball was spun right and then left by the Teddington backs whose winger had an easy run in on a three on one overlap. 0-5 after 5 minutes. Conversion missed.
Five minutes later the process is repeated. Farnham heavies made the ground. Teddington cleared their lines with a long kick down field. George Northwood, direct and penetrative all afternoon at full back, returned the kick with interest. But its turned over again. Ball spun wide and after 10 minutes Teddington are 0-10 to the good. Conversion missed but ominous.
In the absence of the injured skipper Mark Baines, the No 10 shirt was worn by Richard Varely. He marshalled his relatively limited resources brilliantly all game and his raking kicks out of hand sent Teddington back on numerous occasions. Teddington would soon have been out of sight had Varley not made a last-ditch tackle in the corner the like of which Sam Simmonds would have been proud.
However, rugby can be an unkind sport and soon after these heroics Varley failed to find touch with a penalty kick and Teddington’s backs once again outpaced their Farnham counterparts to dot down under the posts. This try converted, the score was 0-17 and as half time approached, Farnham were staring down the barrel.
With this lead established, Teddington decided it was time for some “champagne rugby” and started to fling the ball about. This was their undoing. Farnham No 14 Pete Marsh – undoubtedly man of the match - picked off a wayward pass and streaked sixty yards to score under the posts. This was converted, and the teams took their oranges with the score at 7-17.
The balance of the game shifted in the second half. The kick off failed to make the required ten yards and at the ensuing scrum, the Farnham pack turned the screw. The front row aided and abetted by the considerable bulk of Dave Stent and Phil Francis in the row sent Teddington back. Varley hoofed the inevitable penalty to the corner.
The Farnham line out worked well all afternoon. Hooker Goodwin was as accurate as Phil Taylor to the sure hands of Francis. On this occasion the ball was kept in the pack which trundled inexorably over the line. The try unconverted, the score was 12-17 and Farnham were very much back in the game.
From the restart the Farnham forwards kept the ball close and surged into Teddington territory. Two opportunities came from Teddington’s clearance kicks. Ben Brown has a great run and returns the ball to within meters. Turnover but the subsequent clearance is charged down and bounces over the dead-ball line inches before the predatory Pete Marsh could dot down.
The Farnham forwards have kept the team in the game thus far but now was the time for the backs to show their class. Clean ball from the scrum and Northwood was released down the blind side. He gathered his own delightful chip over the top and off loaded to the ever-present Marsh who dashed in under the posts. This try converted and Farnham’s nose is in front 19 -17.
Back come Teddington and the play recedes into Farnham territory for the first time in the half. Here Farnham demonstrate the spirit that was to win them the game. Wave after wave of Teddington attack was stifled by tackle after tackle in midfield by centres Adam Hailstones and Sam Thomas and by the back row of Ben Platfoot, Ben Goscombe and Ed Birth. In their frustration, Teddington concede the penalty for crossing and Varley’s consistent boot cleared the Farnham lines.
Once more the Farnham forwards keep the ball in the Teddington half searching for the break through. That comes from a set scrum which for the first time in the afternoon saw Farnham in reverse. No doubt the supreme efforts made in open play had tired the engine room. However, Farnham managed to scramble the ball out and from broken play on the blind side, that man Marsh was able to skip and dance his way through the equally tired Teddington defence to score his hattrick out wide. The try was not converted but at 24-17 there was daylight – although not the comfort of a two-score margin – with minutes left to play.
There then came a passage of play reminiscent of those that blighted the 1st XV’s season in which no less than seven games were lost by a single score. The game won, cool heads were required – both on and off the pitch. The Teddington kick off did not make the requisite 10 meters and the cool head would have left it alone and taken the scrum at which a penalty could well have been earned and the game effectively put to bed.
“Play it!” shouted the balcony. The Farnham player did. Knock on. Teddington scrum and they surge into the Farnham half. Farnham concede a penalty. Teddington tap and go. Farnham hold and break back. The ball is kicked dead and scrum back to Teddington on their 10-meter line. They win their feed and their backs once again hit their straps and score midway between touch and the goal posts.
24-22 and the conversion to even it up and force the game into extra-time – something relished by very few - if any – of the battered, bruised and exhausted players.
Good contact and the ball sailed toward the posts. The Farnham Faithful’s collective heart missed a beat – but the ball hit the upright, bounced back and the final whistle blew. Cue unbridled joy for Farnham and desperation for Teddington.
This was a superb advert for grass roots, “social” rugby although the Farnham 3rd XV is far from merely a social side. It is the platform for players to get back into the game, for youngsters to step through on their way to senior rugby and a source of players for the 2s when their players are called up for first team duty. Under skipper Mark Baines, the 3rd XV has thrived this year and spawned a 4th XV that will be playing in the leagues next season.
The 3rd XV adopted the team nickname of the “Warriors” as a somewhat self-deprecating moniker indicating that while they may not be the fittest and most skilled players, they will always give it their best. After this Saturday’s display, they have earned themselves the right to the name in its fullest meaning.
The President’s Chalice final will be played on 5th May at Esher. KO time to be advised. The following represented Farnham on Saturday and all who can will be there on the day.
Guy Williams, Ryan Goodwin, Lee Cobb, Phil Francis, Dave Stent, Ben Goscomb, Ben Platfoot, Ed Birch, Ryan Gregor, Richard Varley, Fred Ware, Adam Hailstones, Sam Thomas, Pete Marsh, George Northwood, Mike Richards, Walid Durani, Ben Brown, Grant Tubridy, Tom Chandler, Will Freeman.