With their best performance of the season so far, Farnham overcame a spirited Twickenham team by 26-45. This was an high octane, physical contest.
Farnham were in the driving seat for much of the match with performance levels a testament to the fitness and skills across the whole squad. This was reflected in the agonising post-match review for the President’s Podium points which the senior club members determined the most difficult ever. Finally, after rating every single player the following three emerged.
Three points to Liam Welch at No 8 who enjoyed a complete performance, solid in defence and rapid in attack. Two points for Toby Salmon at fly half who pulled the strings with ball in hand and off the boot. Finally, one for Reece Stennett on the left wing. He never missed a tackle and plundered yards in attack. They were the top three but there were many standout performances right across the squad.
This Twickenham XV had won at Eastleigh last week and began the game by attacking Farnham on all fronts. Their big, mobile pack supplied ball to a speedy set of threequarters – but for no reward. Farnham eventually drove for the corner and secured the line out. Ollie Brown produced quick ball and there was Toby Salmon on hand to scamper over untouched with an easy conversion to follow. 0-7.
Toby Salmon returned the favour from the restart with a monstrous kick to the corner. Farnham stole the line out and Ollie Brown sniped over into the corner from the 22. The home crowd was quieted and their team was twisted and turned. Worse was to come for them. A huge 70 metre drop out from Michael Salmon pushed Twickenham back and from the return kick, man of the match Welch sprinted clear of the trailing defenders to slide in under the posts. 0-19 with the extras from Salmon Junior.
No sooner had the game restarted, than Farnham’s faithful supporters were stunned and delighted by a mass break out from the 22 that saw James Corlett smash through the first defensive line to find Michael Salmon alongside at pace. The yards gained and the defence broken, he popped a pass to younger brother who burst into into the home 22 and put flanker Toby Comley into space to deliver the coup de grace. 0-24 and the try bonus point secured after just 19 scintillating minutes.
After that devastating opening period, Twickenham had to respond and respond quickly.
There tends to be a flaw in all superb performances. The carbuncle on this performance was Farnham’s reading of the offside law. Farnham conceded no fewer than 14 penalties for offside throughout the game. Other teams will punish Farnham if they fail to control their rush defence and consistently break the off-side line. That the referee did not produce a yellow card for persistent transgression was a mystery and a relief to all in the Farnham camp.
From one such penalty Twickenham went to the corner and from the ensuing line out drove over wide out. The conversion was successful, and the fight back was on. 7-24. Just two minutes late, Farnham were again pinged for offside and the same dose was administered. 14-24 and a lot of Farnham’s good work was undone.
This game was about how well teams responded to set backs and Farnham responded in spades. A penalty kicked into the Twickenham 22 set up Farnham to drive on through Welch. Held, but the pack produced quick ball for Ollie Brown who put Corlett in under the posts. Extras from Toby Salmon. 14-31.
Again, the game was turned on its head as Twickenham came back. A kick to the corner swirled in the wind to wrong foot the black and white defence and allow Twickenham’s follow up to score the try. 21-31 at half time after an end to end battle in which Farnham had created many of their own problems.
The first score after the break was crucial and it went to Twickenham, 26-31. It was a nervy time for the travelling support but they were not to be let down as Farnham upped the intensity. Farnham’s multi-national front row of South African Kurt Schonert, Australian Jules Joris and Portuguese Marco Azevado dominated the scrums all afternoon. With Ben Adams and Toby Comley consistently winning good ball at the line out and the Jonny Davidson and Welch combining to top the scavenging rights Farnham were mainly in control. But, oh, those penalties!
The home No 8 was sent to the sin bin on the hour and on receiving a clearance kick, back Ben Jones, another who enjoyed a quality performance, launched a counterattack though the depleted defence to go in under the posts. Salmon T slotted the easy conversion to widen the gap to 26-38.
Steve Simmons came on for Pritchard in the second row and the extra poundage produced an immediate result. A dominant scrum set up a superb length of the pitch break-out led by Stennett. Albeit being felled by a high tackle, he popped the ball inside to Toby Salmon. A couple of defenders beaten, Salmon offloaded to a rampaging Comley who made the space for Corlett to saunter in unopposed. Extras secured and 26-45 was the final score.