Perhaps it was over-confidence given the season’s earlier encounter in which the team put 85 points on the opposition.
Whatever it was, Farnham were not at their best in Saturday’s (April 2) league fixture at London Cornish – particularly in the first half.
However, successful teams manage to win under such circumstances. And so it was that Farnham earned the right to look forward with confidence to their second season in London 1 South following their 26-18 win on the day – the seventh “W” of the season.
Neither side covered themselves in glory during the opening 20 minutes as the ball was constantly spilt or turned over.
It was exciting end-to-end stuff for the neutral but frustrating for both sets of supporters.
It must be remembered that Cornish have Guildford as one of their two scalps for the season. They are no mugs and their 8-9-10 spine is populated by talented players.
Furthermore, in this scrum-laden period, their tight five, bolstered by a sizeable second row, dominated the set piece.
On 15 minutes, Cornish took a 3-0 lead with a penalty from in front of the posts. Soon after Farnham spilt the ball in midfield allowing Cornish to break out only to be halted by conceding a penalty.
Cornish went for the corner, but to the large contingent of the travelling faithful’s relief, the ball was stolen in the air by Ben Adams.
The relief was short lived as once again the ball was turned over and after a couple of phases the Cornish eight found himself in acres of space on the left and went over for the try to go 8-0 ahead.
The score galvanised the visitors who secured possession from the restart and took the ball upfield through the phases. For a period of time, the ball stuck!
Strong carries by Ben Adams and his forwards pounded the Cornish line and eventually Ollie Brown released the backs and after a typically-robust run, Tim Salmon offloaded to full back Gabe Hills who, in trademark tackle-busting style, wriggled over for the try.
Tim had the kicking duties this day and was successful with the conversion to narrow the gap to 8-7.
Some aspects of the Farnham game started to click. The scrum held firm. Tim Salmon’s kicking from hand made good ground.
The team went close to a score when Farnes’ delicate dab through bounced down the slope over the “billiard table” just out of reach of the chasers.
Farnham went ahead after kicking for the corner. The line out was disrupted but Toby Comley was quick to snaffle the loose ball and three quick passes later Hills jinked over from close range for his second.
Tim Salmon’s conversion attempt went just wide and the half-time whistle blew with Farnham holding a 12-8 advantage.
The game ebbed to and fro as each team went through the phases until someone dropped the ball. Cornish’s long, raking kicks down the hill pinned Farnham into their 22 and Fijian Lai Rokotuwai, on for Chalker on the wing, made two tackles and two carries – all four of which culminated in a stoppage to allow the tackled and the tacklers to recover.
He cut in for his first tackle leaving the wing undefended and Cornish’s rapid No14 went over. The conversion was missed but Cornish had their noses in front 13-12.
Farnham’s chase at the restart was lazy enough to allow Cornish to gather and spin the ball wide to their 14 who curled round a ragged defence to go over again. It made the score 18-12 – was this the overture to an upset?
Once again it needed adversity to spark the Black and Whites. And again, it was the fancy footwork of hooker Jon Vincent to put the Cornish defence on the back foot after which Farnham put in the phases. Ben Adams saw a gap on the Cornish 22 and broke for the line. As the cover defence arrived Ollie Brown, running the classic No9 support line to take the pass, scurried over. Tim’s conversion was good and Farnham were back in front at 19-18.
They edged further ahead when for the third time in the match – if only it had been more – the Black and Whites put in multiple phases and kept the ball. The Cornish defence was pulled right, left and back again and when Toby Comley saw unguarded space in the middle, he sprinted over from 20 metres. The conversion was good and Farnham had some breathing space at last at 26-18.
While the first XV snatched their win, the second XV, the Vikings, faced a sterner test against Camberley seconds at Monkton Lane, going down 60-5.
The Barbarians (fourth XV) lost narrowly at local rivals Alton Seconds 29-26.
Today (Saturday) is Farnham’s last home game of the season when they welcome Horsham to Monkton Lane – hopefully to avenge their 21-7 defeat back in December. It promises to be a festival of good rugby with the Vikings also facing Horsham seconds at home on the day. Both games kick off at 3pm.
Report by Mark Weeks