Farnham Rugby Club beaten by London Welsh
IT WAS a big day at Monkton Lane when Farnham welcomed London Welsh to a league game for the first and – for the foreseeable future – the last time in both clubs’ history.
Ex-Premiership club London Welsh are rebuilding with their sights set firmly on restoring the club to its once Wales and Barbarian player glory.
And so it is that London Welsh possesses the playing resources to overwhelm a Farnham team whose home-grown players had reached the heights of London 1 for the first time in the club’s history.
Despite the scoreline of 5-41, this was not a completely one-sided affair.
All 18 Farnham boys fought like tigers, demonstrated a high level of skill, remained true to their well-coached patterns and threatened to score on numerous occasions.
However, Welsh were clinically efficient in the Farnham 22 and well drilled in defence when Farnham reached theirs.
Within five minutes Welsh had an attacking lineout on the Farnham ten-metre line. The maul was successfully repelled but as the ball was released to the Welsh backs, a mistimed interception was deemed a deliberate knock on and Toby Comley was given an early ten- minute rest.
Welsh kicked to the corner, sucked in the Farnham defence with multiple pick and goes and then made use of the man advantage to spin the ball wide and with a three-one overlap, dotted down under the posts.
Despite being a man down, Farnham then exerted some pressure in the Welsh half. Skipper Ollie Brown was quick to charge down his opposite number’s box kick and in the ensuing scramble, winger Alex Chalker was unlucky not to pick off the interception that would have seen him clear to the line.
The Welsh outfit reset and drove up the narrow side with multiple phases – many of which were snuffed out by winger Reece Stennett, who never missed a tackle.
As they approached the line, Sam Woodhams was convinced he had successfully jackalled the Welsh attacker and his team-mates agreed. However, it is an error not to play to the whistle, which the Welsh did by snaffling the ball and diving over for the try. The conversion was missed but it was 0-12 after 20 minutes.
The Farnham lineout worked well all afternoon with Jonny Vincent accurate to Ben Adams or Toby Comley. From a lineout Farnham pick and go, Ollie Banks-Thompson – on for Connor Haynes who was being assessed for a head injury – on the charge was stripped of the ball.
B-T had a very good game in the tight and may have secured a number of scrum penalties had the referee interpreted the laws differently.
When the Welsh powered up the narrow right side Farnham strayed offside and they took advantage by kicking to the corner.
The maul then powered over to make it 0-19 .
As the half drew to a close, Farnham enjoyed good possession and stretched the Welsh defence. Matt Farnes distributed the ball effectively, allowing brothers Toby and Tim Salmon at centre to make ground.
Their elder brother Mike at full back joined in with his inimitable abrasive style of running.
When the ball came back to the tight five, there was Jon Vincent to make the yards alongside the ever-present Marco Azevedo.
Steve “Animal” Simmons, a hard-working servant of the club for many years, cleared the rucks alongside fellow row-man, the youthful Harrison Horner.
At the restart Farnham played into the stiffening breeze.
Welsh kicked for a lineout in the Farnham 22 and again forced a knock on. By now the Farnham scrum was creaking under a significant weight disadvantage and Ed Couzens, after a couple of quick tap penalties, reached over a long arm to score.
Farnham coach Ali Chisholm then rang the changes. Harrison Horner had emptied the tank and on came veteran Jemi Akin-Olugbade to the flank with Adams back to the row.
Toby Salmon, eager to send the Welsh back as far as possible, misjudged the fickle breeze and over-kicked the restart.
From the scrum at the centre, the Welsh went through the phases, their handling slick and their running lines threatening.
No wonder that at the end of the game, London Welsh’s Mike Talbot commented: “That’s the best we’ve played this year.”
Animal Simmons’ turnover was not rewarded and the Welsh powered over, and when they made the conversion they led 0-31.
Farnham heads could have gone down with 15 minutes to go and the game could have become a rout. But that did not happen.
Welsh did the cross the line twice more but as the home side were getting few 50-50 decisions, they threw the ball about a bit.
The penultimate play of the game was a scintillating break out by Farnham, led by full-back Mike Salmon.
A beautifully-timed pass to brother Toby set him free on the left and with Chalker running a decoy line outside, he skinned the scramble defence to score out wide.
Albeit the best try of the day, it was minimal reward for the Farnham boys’ heroic efforts.
The ultimate play of the day saw yet another crunching, try-saving tackle from man of the match Tim Salmon.
Report by Mark Weeks
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