Farnham Rugby Club are top of Regional 2 South East after a 30-10 win against Reeds Weybridge at Monkton Lane.
Both Reeds Weybridge and Farnham enjoy playing a fast, open game of rugby and are stacked with the talent to execute that game plan. While the teams did not disappoint, it was the Black and Whites who took their chances with variation in attack backed by a dogged defence. The home side delivered a bonus point win to go top of the league.
The opening minutes set the tone of the game. Farnham kicked off with the breeze at their back and the chase was quick and effective, forcing a Reeds knock-on.
The scrum was solid as props Jules Joris and Marco Azevedo tamed their feisty opposite numbers. However, a Farnham knock-on allowed Reeds to clear to the halfway line.
The Farnham line out worked well all afternoon with hooker Ben Brown accurate from the touchline and the jumpers, Comley and Adams, lifted high on cue. This was no exception and the backs attacked, No 10 Ben Jones distributing with aplomb. But the ball was dislodged and Reeds set off on a lonely run, only to be tackled in midfield and the ball snaffled by Tim Salmon.
The penalty for failing to release was placed accurately to the corner by brother Toby.
The line out was good. The maul was held but scrum half Ollie Brown – back to his best – popped the ball to Tim Salmon running a hard, direct in the five-metre channel to score. Toby Salmon missed the conversion, but Farnham led 5-0.
The dangerous looking Reeds attack was constantly snuffed out by the pace of Farnham’s blitz defence. Frustration led to penalties and back chat and the referee marched Reeds back to within striking distance of Toby’s boot. The penalty was missed.
On 25 minutes, from a scrum penalty, Farnham put in a purple patch of play. The loose forwards, Comley, Vincent and Henderson carried hard and punched holes. The backs ran straight, and the passes stuck as wingers Reece Stennett and Alex Chalker were given some space to run with fullback Nathan Phillimore adding further to the threat. However, the attack was halted with the Farnham runner isolated deep in the Reeds 22.
The Reeds scrum half took a quick tap penalty, darted the given ten metres, and passed to their gangly but mercurial No 11 Marcus Clarke who had come infield looking for work. He skipped and jinked his way past the Farnham tacklers – all up in attacking formation – and raced the open field to score under the posts and put the visitors 7-5 up.
As the clock wound down to half time, Farnham ran a repeat of their opening score. Toby Salmon put a penalty accurately to the corner.
The line out was immaculate. The driving maul was effective, but held. Ollie Brown spun the ball out to Jones who held it for a moment to suck in the midfield defence before popping to that man Tim Salmon to aggressively crash over again. The conversion was good and Farnham led 12-7 as the half time whistle blew.
Reeds kicked off the second half and Farnham made the same mistake that had cost them on a couple of occasions this season. They tried to run the ball out. The Reeds chase was good and Farnham conceded the penalty in front of their posts.
The play had produced a couple of injuries – one each. Oscar Henderson went off for a head injury assessment and was replaced by the young tyro Jack Bemelmans on the flank, with Comley moving to number eight.
Bemelmans went on to make a significant impact in the game with strong carries and stronger tackles.
After some delay while Reeds tended to their injured player, their flyhalf Peter Cole slotted the penalty and at 12-10 it was all to play for.
However, it was noticeable that Reeds were losing impetus. After three bonus point wins no doubt secured by some dazzling back play, they now struggled to break down the Farnham defence. Meanwhile Farnham mixed their attacking styles. Direct lines and some sharp offloads saw the home team carry the ball deep into the Reeds half. Eventually Reeds conceded a kickable penalty, and this time Salmon added the three points.
The restart heralded the try of the match. The kick was securely gathered, the forwards made ground and the backs were released. Just inside the Farnham half, Reece Stennett offloaded in the tackle to Toby Salmon, who spotted his chance and raced 60 metres through the misaligned defence to score. He failed to make the conversion, but the home team now led 20-10.
A frustrated Reeds team coughed up regular penalties. A snipe from Ollie Brown released Ben Adams who charged into the Reeds 22.
A penalty was conceded and Toby Salmon kicked to the corner. The line out was good, and the maul powered forward only for the Reeds number eight to cynically enter from the side to drag it down. He was shown a yellow card. Farnham repeated the process and this time hustled the ball over the line to allow Ollie Brown to dot down at the base of the maul. Toby’s conversion attempt was awry, but Farnham led 25-10.
Reeds were determined to get back into the game and but for a forward pass may well have scored under the posts as the hitherto dogged Farnham defence was pulled apart.
On 75 minutes, Farnham broke out and Alex Chalker raced away out wide only to be tackled five metres from the line. More Reeds skulduggery at the breakdown earned Farnham the penalty which Toby put into the corner.
The drills worked well, and Farnham moved the attack infield. As Brown waited for the ball at the base of a ruck, he called his troops to form up for the attack on the open side and the Reeds defence followed.
However, as the ball arrived, he simply popped it to the blind side where it ended up in the hands of Ben Adams who strolled over an undefended line from five metres out.
The conversion was missed, but Farnham now led 30-10.
From the restart Reeds flooded aggressively into the Farnham half to win a series of penalties that were all taken quickly. However, the Farnham defence stood firm and a turnover by Tim Salmon heralded the final whistle.
It was a famous win for the Black and Whites which required all 18 of the squad to play well.
As the game wore on, the doughty Sam Woodhams came on to replace Marco Azevedo at prop, who had put in a huge shift both in the tight and open play. Henderson came back on – after passing his head injury assessment – to replace Matthew Chapman, who had done sterling work in the row, and a 15-minute opportunity to learn the Farnham style of play was given to Rory McMichael at centre.
Rory has just returned to the club that nurtured his rugby career from university in Scotland, where he won Scottish international honours at age-group level.
The test for Farnham tomorrow (Saturday) is at second-placed Horsham. A win there and the team will be well set for a very successful season.
Report by Mark Weeks