A perfect autumn day delivered perfect conditions Farnham’s home encounter against Old Cranleighans (OCs). To alleviate the disappointment of the cancellation of all of their fixtures, Farnham 2nd, 3rd and 4th XVs swelled the numbers of the pre-match diners and the large crowd of spectators. What a treat they enjoyed.
The squad systems is working well for Farnham. Injuries and illness gave opportunities to Ian Williams, after a long lay-off, Angus Butcher, Andrew Kidd and Stan Marisa. They did not disappoint. The coaching team have done a tremendous job with the senior squad. Forty plus players all play off the same hymn sheet. Those that step up to the plate know their role and slot in immediately. The Farnham blitz/wrap around defence stifled all OCs efforts. Their attacks snuffed out, Farnham built from deep. The visitors gradually succumbed, battered by piercing attacks and that fierce defence.
OCs should have opened the scoring with a penalty from Hodson after a series of sweeping forays into the Farnham 22. Inexplicably the kick was pulled wide of the posts. From that moment Farnham went on the rampage stretching the OCs defence from one side of the pitch to the other.
First, right wing Gabe Hills broke out of a melee of players to set up centre James Corlett for a try under the posts - easy conversion for Toby Salmon. 7-0.
OCs came back pressurising the home defence but time after time they were pushed back. During one such defensive effort, Farnham prop Kurt Schonert went down with a calf tear to be replaced by stalwart Ian Williams. The enforced change did not interrupt Farnham’s rhythm and they again escaped the shackles in midfield and drove into the right wing channel through Toby Salmon. He popped the ball inside to skipper Ollie Brown who freed up James Corlett for his second try.
The home crowd were now fully involved. The entire Farnham senior playing squad made themselves heard. Thus inspired, Liam Welch had one thought in mind and from the line out took route one to score his first try wide out. 19-0. Not content, Welch forced an intercept on 24 minutes and barged his way to the line for his second. Toby Salmon kicked the extras and at 26-0, the bonus point was secure.
OCs produce classy, running rugby and began to respond. They were desperate to get back into a game which was rapidly sliding away from them. Their most sustained attack by far showed their skills to the full. After 15 phases of play, Knight crashed over by the corner flag to score OCs only points of the afternoon, the conversion being missed.
Farnham were stung back into action but then the first of a series of head injuries saw Corlett off and Stan Marisa on. In the very next move, full back Ben Jones’s head clashed with Hodson’s. From the penalty Toby Salmon kicked to the 5-metre line. The line out secure and the packed piled Steve 'Animal' Simmons over for a very well deserved try. 31-5 and half time.
The crowd was pleased. Farnham’s defence had been as good and tight as their attack. The offside penalties from the last few weeks were a thing of the past. The referee, a 17 year old fast tracker under assessment, had coped very well in the initial 40 minutes and earned his break.
The second half was a repeat of the first. Swarming OC attacks were battered back by the watertight Farnham defence. With their own defence stretched to the limit, OCs were vulnerable to counterattack. Toby Salmon burst clear in the Farnham 22 and galloped a full 80 metres to dot down under the posts. A gulp of air and he kicked the easy extras. 38-5.
The pace increased. The collisions we full on and on occasions the pitch was littered with injured players from both sides. OCs emptied their bench while Farnham put Kidd on for Simmons. When Joris had to leave the fray with a cut to his head, both sides were a prop short so scrums were unopposed for the remainder of the match.
The pace did not falter. The two Farnham debutantes Butcher and Kidd combined to put Kidd under the posts. Another easy conversion for Salmon. 45-5. And still the Black and White hordes rained down. Turnover by Welch and another Salmon break out. He is held but offloaded to flying winger Reece Stennett who raced in. 52-5.
Salmon supplied the coup de grace with a withering burst of speed to crash over under the posts. The extras were inevitable and put the icing on the cake of a 59-5 demolition.
This was Farnham's biggest win over OCs in the last twenty years. Both sides played new players, but Farnham were by far the more organised and innovative which is a huge credit to coaches Ali Chisholm and Gary Stennett.
Next week, Farnham are away to London Welsh for the first round of the RFU Intermediate Cup. This will be a chance for the boys to play on the Old Deer Park, Richmond - the scene of many famous encounters with equally famous players. Geoff Bond, Farnham Rugby Club President, was privileged to play there in the late 1970s against a London Welsh side featuring 7 British and Irish Lions.