Festival Rugby for the U15s at Farnham
Our friends and rivals from Effingham and Leatherhead Eagles travelled to Wilkinson way on Sunday 11 Feb for a feast of rugby.
15 years - What an age for a group of boys to be. As the assembled crowd of middle aged mums and dads on the balcony at Wilkinson Way with their collective aches and pains will tell you, being 15 was completely awesome! When we were 15, it was jumpers for goalposts but how lucky are our boys to be 15 in 2018? Playstation vs Xbox, iPhone vs Android, Eddie Jones vs Joe Schmidt, Mercedes vs Ferrari, Chelsea vs Man United - Pitched battles between pairs of experts all at the top of their game. And then there's Farnham vs Effingham. Who could wish for more?
Effingham were good enough to travel to Wilkinson Way for a half term friendly this morning. A return visit for E&L U15 Head coach, Ex England number 8 and occasional Eagles 1st team member, Chris Sheasby who it seems was largely responsible for saving E&L from an ignominious defeat at the hands of the Farnham 1s a couple of weeks ago. Would revenge be wrought by the Farnham U15s today? Effingham and Leatherhead are one of the few squads in the county able to field an U15 squad of similar size and quality to Farnham. Many of our traditional opponents are finding their squads becoming a bit depleted with rugby having to compete for attention with the lure of GCSEs, Girls and other sports which don't involve getting wet, cold and dirty. Obviously Farnham boys and indeed those from Effingham are made of sterner stuff with both teams able to field 50 boys each with a following wind.
The rugby began this morning with 30 minutes hard work from the Development teams ably reffed by Doug Ogilvie. The Farnham boys were quick out of the blocks with an impressive display of rucking and tackling and it was only a minute into the game when Ben Cregeen at 12 bosched his way out of the back line and made a deft kick over the E&L defenders which he quickly regathered in the dead ball zone himself to score. Charlie Cochrane converted to make it 7-0. Soon enough, Toby Richards bravely stopped an Eagles clearance kick with his nose which served only to galvanise the Eagles who purposefully drove their way up the pitch, eventually to score under the posts. 7-5
Another E&L try soon took the score to 7-10 and Farnham were under the cosh. Eventually the black and white line was breached again for E&L to put one under the posts - 7-17 and another made it 7-22. Highlights of the Farnham performance were some great tackles, particularly from Josh Smith and Ben Atkins but ultimately the E&L attack and strong counter rucking in defence counted in their favour.
Next up were the As with Alistair Mylcreest at the whistle. E&L's As have been having quite a season with a recent 66-0 win over Camberley on the score sheet. With both sides short of a few of their usual players due to half term activities and injuries, neither side knew how strong the other would be, with some fearsome attacking play meeting staunch defence on both sides. However, it was Farnham who was the first to score with a magnificent breakaway try from lock Ollie Wingfield in the corner having run all the way from the Farnham 22, breaking tackles all the way. A sideline conversion on the big 1st pitch proved a tough ask for Finlay Anderson so the score stood at 5-0 after 10 minutes.
After another ten minutes of quality play the Eagles found themselves inside the Farnham 22 and motoring towards the line. A pick and go from Kai Sheasby almost reached the whitewash and after some furious defending a second drive from a determined Eagle saw him pop the ball down for a score to the left of the posts. A conversion would have seen E&L take the honours but with their usual goal kicker injured their reserve 10 couldn't quite convert so the score stayed at 5-5 and that was how the game ended. A great game between two evenly matched sides - The very definition of a successful friendly.
The final 30 minute stretch was to feature a mixed side from both squads with an Eagles ref to see fair play. The first 15 minutes was all Farnham's and first to score was Harry Smith with a superb display of gas from the left wing wing to pop the ball down under the posts, making the Charlie Cochrane conversion a foregone conclusion - 7-0. Harry Smith took the next score too with a superb run from the Farnham 22 for a second under post score for Charlie Cochrane to convert - 14-0.
A swap around of players at half time saw the momentum shift in the direction of the Eagles whose right wing shot down the line to do a Harry and score under the posts too. 14-7. Another slightly soft Eagle score came next after a clearance error allowed a 3 man overlap to pop down in the far corner. 14-12. Eagles kept up the pressure and some tired legs were by now in evidence on both sides. Josh Smith put in another try saving tackle but ultimately it wasn't enough to stop the Eagles fierce attack and a nice line from Kai Sheasby saw him over the line to the left of the posts, easily converted for 14-19 and an Eagles lead. The Farnham boys by now had little left in the tank and an Eagles speedster scooted down the far touchline stepping Max Campbell-Harris, who had been in superb form all morning, in the process to touch down in the corner.
The game finished 14-24 to E&L but no-one was really concerned with the score - the match finished with mutual respect from both sides and a pledge to play each other again. A top way to end a friendly.
It only remained to retire to the bar for the parents to slake their thirsts with a pint or two and for the boys to enjoy Farnham's match tea hospitality and the traditional (?) Doughnut boat race. Can't say fairer than that.