Farnham find their mojo as Salmon claims hat-trick

Friday 4th February 2022 5:00 pm
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Action from Farnham’s 49-7 win against Hammersmith & Fulham on Saturday PHOTO BY JULIAN FROST

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SATURDAY’S match against Hammersmith and Fulham RFC was the performance the Farnham faithful had been waiting for all season.

October’s record-breaking win against London Irish was the Black and Whites’ only other victory of the current campaign.

If that match could be likened to the efficient demolition of an unstable building, this game was more akin to the classroom dissection of an amphibious creature.

That analogy does not mean to denigrate the Hammers.

With former England prop Jason Leonard their president, they are a proud club that plays attacking rugby, and it was obvious to all on the balcony that they had come to play.

However, Farnham had one of those days where every department of the game worked to training ground perfection.

In truth, the potential has been there all season.

For this match, however, the Farnham defence was clinically effective, the attack pierced from all corners of the pitch and the Hammers were helplessly pinned down.

Up front, scrum dominance was provided by props Marco Azevedo and Ben Edwards with Jon Vincent at hooker – and, as the game progressed, front row inter-change Jules Joris.

In open play Azevedo and Edwards punched into the Hammers’ midfield to soak up defenders.

Vincent harried and carried to effectively provide the team with a third flanker.

Matt Chapman and Harrison Horner provided the hard yards in open play and weight in the second row, allowing Ben Adams to move to blindside flanker.

Adams remained the main target at the line out securing the bulk of Farnham’s ball and making himself a real nuisance at the Hammers’ throw in.

Toby Comley at openside flanker had his usual omnipresent game, and in Oscar Henderson, Farnham had a talented ball player at number eight who provided a real threat from the base of the set scrum.

Skipper Ollie Brown was excellent at scrum half. His rifle pass was delivered that crucial split second quicker than of late and his sniping runs kept the Hammers’ defence guessing.

Matt Farnes at number ten controlled the game well and made the most of the Salmon brothers Toby and Tim at centre – both on electric form.

Farnes also kicked well out of hand – one notable, raking boot relieving a perilous position and putting Farnham on the attack.

Out wide on the left wing, Reece Stennett scored his try and never missed a tackle.

On the right, Fijian debutant Lai Rokotuwai ran direct and hard in attack and his defensive work had a distinctive edge.

At full back, Gabe Hills’ defensive qualities were rarely tested, but he was a dangerous attacking option throughout.

Despite the starting 15 all being in such form and an overwhelming territorial advantage, it took half an hour for the Black and Whites to unlock the door.

After a rare foray by the Hammers into the Farnham half, Farnes clearance kick set up the opening score.

Farnham set the maul from the lineout and threatened the Hammers line, but the ball was turned over and the Hammers looked to break out – but the Farnham line was up fast and forced the knock on.

A training ground loop-move from the scrum put Toby Salmon over wide out on the left for the first of his three tries – all of which he converted immaculately from a distance.

From the restart, Farnham were soon back in the Hammers 22 and a sequence of dominant scrums looked likely to produce a score one way or another.

However, the referee awarded the final scrum penalty to the defenders, and they cleared their lines.

But Adams stole the visitors line out ball and Farnham unleashed a series of sharp phases to give Toby Salmon the space to jink through for his second.

From the next restart, brother Tim, who prefers an arcing run at pace with a ferocious hand off or two, made the break.

Under extreme pressure, the Hammers lost their composure and their discipline.

A hand knocked the ball forward intentionally and resulted in a yellow card.

A body continually flopped over the ruck denying Farnham quick ball, resulting in another yellow card.

The second card was shown to a prop forward and with no spare front row, uncontested scrums were called.

The law states, in these circumstances, the Hammers must lose yet another man, so for the next ten minutes or so, they were down to 12 players on the pitch.

Farnham were quick to capitalise, spinning the ball left to right and back again to give Stennett the opportunity for his well taken try.

Toby Salmon converted from the far touch line into a stiff breeze, and Farnham headed for the half time talk with a 21-0 lead.

Still playing against just 12 men, Farnham failed to pierce the Hammers defence for the first ten minutes of the second half – bar the moment when Gabe Hills streaked down the right-hand touch line and over only to be judged to have had a foot in touch at the last yard.

Perhaps some over-confidence led to slips in concentration.

Passes failed to go to hand and off-side penalties allowed the Hammers to clear their lines.

Credit to the Hammers 12, who never gave up.

It required the game to be a full 15-a-side contest for Farnham to turn the screws.

Another line out stolen by Adams turned defence into attack and sumptuous interplay between the Salmon brothers put Toby over for his hat-trick which he duly converted to make it 28-0 and seal the try bonus point.

The Hammers fought on and their powerful number 13 looked to break through the Farnham line, only to be halted by a crunching tackle from Toby Salmon.

The ball was spilt, and Farnham were quick to counter and spin the ball wide only for the Hammers’ number ten – whose efforts hitherto had largely kept his team in the game – to intercept the pass and sprint over between the posts to make it 28-7.

Farnham struck back immediately.

They cleared their lines from the restart, and doubtless buoyed by their score, the Hammers’ launched an attack through the hands.

However, Farnham’s blitz defence was up fast, the ball was spilt and number ten Farnes hacked forward.

After a lung bursting 50-yard chase and some deft football, he dotted down. Toby Salmon converted to make it 35-7.

The Black and Whites squandered a couple of other opportunities before a special moment of reward for their front row efforts, Vincent took an inside pass from Azevedo and galloped over 20 metres of undefended ground to score.

Toby Salmon had been replaced by Chalker, so brother Tim converted the try to make it 42-7.

Farnham’s final score came from the backs.

Ben Jones, on for Rokotuwai, showed he was well over a long term injury, not only by securing the restarts, but also by rounding off some slick Farnham phases with a searing break down the left.

As the cover defence drew near, Chalker on the inside gratefully received the pass with just 25 metres of grass between him and the try line.

Gabe Hills successfully took the chance to convert to make it 49-7.

The final whistle blew after one last hurrah from the Hammers was denied by the Farnham defence.

After such a performance, the postponed visit of Camberley to Monkton Lane this Saturday for what promises to be a competitive derby is much anticipated.

Second-placed Camberley beat league leaders London Welsh on Saturday, proving that in London South 1 any result is possible on any given day.

Report by Mark Weeks

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