Farnham fell to a narrow 15-12 defeat at Witney.
The Farnham faithful made the long trip up the A34 to Witney expecting a positive result from their team that had run the top sides close by playing some outstanding rugby. However, the team simply did not click for this mid-table clash.
Farnham introduced a new player to the team for the fourth time this season, as Chris Duringer took the number 13 shirt. Wingers Dan Sullivan and Toby Simmons were recalled to the side to give the backline a different look.
Farnham started the better of the two teams in the first half despite playing into the wind and up a gentle slope against a big and powerful Witney pack.
The Black and Whites put together some sharp early phases but could not take their chances. When the ball was spilled with the try-line begging, Witney fly-hacked it into the Farnham 22 where their big forwards camped only to be repelled by the resilient Farnham defence with valuable turnovers from Jonny Vincent, Tom Brooker and Duringer.
On 20 minutes, the visitors built up some phases and marched into Witney’s 22. After a series of battering-ram carries by the forwards, the ball came to fly half Ben Jones who fizzed a long pass to fullback Sam Thomas on the wing who strolled in out wide.
The conversion was missed, but Farnham had their noses in front.
Witney continued to win the battle for territory and kept Farnham pinned in their 22.
Their scrum and rolling maul were used to good effect, but Farnham’s goal line defence stayed strong.
Just before the half-time interval, Witney were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which was chipped over to take the score to 5-3. The half-time whistle blew moments later with Farnham content to have the lead with the wind behind them for the second period.
Farnham started the second half well. They had a good attacking platform after Jones kicked a superb 50-22 – perhaps a tactic that could have been used more often as the game progressed. Farnham were edging towards the line when the whistle blew to pause the game following a knock to a Witney player’s head.
Witney’s set scrum had been dominant all game and the ball was turned over on Farnham’s put in at the restart.
Frustrated, the Farnham players were perhaps a little too keen to get their hands on the ball and gave away far too many penalties at the breakdown and, when they did get hold of it, they made several unenforced errors.
The coaches also showed signs of frustration as their charges failed to maintain their team shape in attack and, when defending, allowed Witney to stick to their game plan.
Witney retained the ball well and with 20 minutes to go, moved the ball wide for their fullback to break through the line to score in the corner.
The conversion was missed, but Witney took an 8-5 lead.
Farnham needed to get their attack going. Despite some strong carries from Brooker and Jemi Akin-Olugbade, they failed to keep the breakdown clean and leaked penalties.
Farnham turned over the ball in their own 22 and spotted numbers out wide to play from deep. The ball was moved quickly wide to Simmons, who sprinted clear before being dragged down by the cover defence. He offloaded to Toby Salmon who finished in the corner. The conversion was successful and Farnham led 12-8 with eight minutes to play.
Witney refused to give up and a yellow card for Duringer reduced Farnham to 14 men for the rest of the game. Witney pounded the Farnham line with their powerful scrum, while their maul continued to cause problems for the visitors.
In the final minute, the Witney scrum edged towards the Farnham line. Inches from the line, the scrum half picked up and dotted down close to the posts. The conversion was successful and the whistle blew with the final score at 15-12.
A tough loss for Farnham, with Witney the better side on the day. With the lessons learned and a week’s rest this young Farnham side will look forward to entertaining Reading in their next game at Monkton Lane on Saturday, October 14.