A late penalty finally extinguished Farnham’s challenge as they lost 11-7 at Winchester.

Farnham travelled to Winchester on a very windy afternoon. While the recent rain had relented, the ground was heavy from the morning’s downpour.

For a game that was to be heavily impacted by the conditions, Farnham elected to play into the wind in the first half with a view to digging in and limiting Winchester’s chances. The ploy worked.

Winchester kicked off and applied early pressure on the Farnham defence. Their first chance came when their right winger found space to get into the Farnham 22. However, great cover defence saw Farnham draw a penalty and relieve the pressure.

Albeit held in their own half for the first 15 minutes, Farnham handled the period well. Despite having to kick into a gale force wind, playmakers Harry West and Ollie Brown managed the game well, while Jack Scullion at full back regularly found a good touch with his boot. But on 20 minutes the referee spotted Farnham doing something untoward at the breakdown and awarded Winchester a kickable penalty. They duly opened their account to lead 3-0.

Thereafter, Farnham managed to get their hands on the ball and put together some strong attacking phases. Ben Jones pounced on a loose ball to give Farnham momentum before Ollie Brown and Fin Sloan combined to put Farnham into Winchester’s 22.

Carries from Marcus Lambert-Parsons and Oscar Henderson got Farnham within five metres but a knock on at the critical moment elicited groans of frustration from the good number of the Farnham faithful who had made the trip down the A31.

The game then halted for half an hour as the assembled medics carefully dealt with a neck injury to Farnham hooker George Haylett, who was taken to hospital by ambulance. George was discharged that evening and is looking forward to getting back on the pitch soon.

Despite this breather for a pack that had been given the runaround by their lighter and more mobile opposition, Winchester failed to use the conditions effectively. As the first half drew to a close, Farnham were pleased with the job done to restrict the downwind score to just three points. The Black and Whites kept the tempo high and the ball in hand, with Harrison Horner going close, but Winchester’s well-drilled and gritty defence kept him out as the whistle blew for oranges.

After a shortened half-time break given the earlier delay, Max Williams and Archie Cleeve entered the fray for a Farnham team confident after their first half performance. Perhaps they were over-confident, as often their moves were overplayed, while Winchester competed hard at the breakdown to halt any momentum.

Ten minutes into the half, Winchester had possession in the Farnham 22, with their forwards making a series of close carries. Farnham coughed up a penalty at the breakdown, and Winchester’s scrum half took the quick tap and scurried over in the corner. The conversion was missed but it was a sucker punch to Farnham, and Winchester led 8-0.

With plenty of time remaining, a series of long-range kicks from Scullion put Farnham deep into the Winchester 22. Here they created a number of chances, but a combination of handling errors and stout Winchester defence kept them at bay.

With ten minutes to go, Farnham finally got on the scoreboard when the ball was moved wide to Nathan Phillimore, who cut in to beat his opposite man and power over in the corner. He converted his own try to make it 8-7.

However, Farnham failed to deal with the restart and Winchester were now determined to stay in Farnham’s half.

The Black and Whites fought ferociously for the ball – perhaps too much so – and Winchester were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. This was converted and the home side had an 11-7 lead with five minutes remaining. Farnham continued to apply pressure but just couldn’t break through the Winchester defence, until another penalty at the breakdown allowed Winchester to hoof the ball dead and secure the win.

This was another dedicated performance from this young Farnham side, who fought hard against a good team.

Toby Salmon