Farnham Rugby Club win nailbiter against Guildford

Saturday 26th February 2022 7:00 am
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(Steve Ratcliffe )

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Guildford 18 Farnham 21: THIS was the epitome of a game of two halves between two sides that could not be separated in the season’s earlier 20-20 London Division 1 South encounter at Monkton Lane.

The team playing right to left in front of Guildford RFC’s well-appointed Broadwater Pavilion gained distinct advantage from the blustery sting in Eunice’s tail and the slope at the down-wind end of the ground.

Farnham received the kick-off playing up that slope and into that wind.

And so it was that Guildford scored their 18 points in the first half while, crucially, Farnham struck back once with a converted try.

In the second half, Guildford failed to score while Farnham ran in two more converted tries to claim the spoils.

To win the game, Farnham had to dig deep and show true grit.

The Guildford pack was dominant in the first half. It made ominous yards in the maul and at the set scrum brutally shoved Farnham back no matter who had the put in.

Long, deep ruts in the soggy turf gave evidence to where Farnham boots had failed to hold their ground.

Despite being on the back foot, the Farnham team scrapped and harried for every yard of ground.

Pinned inside their 22 by successive penalties, Farnham’s defence both up front and out wide held firm. Eventually on 20 minutes another penalty was awarded on the Farnham 22 in front of the posts and Guildford took the three points.

Unsurprisingly given the pressure sustained thus far, things went awry for Farnham. Guildford cleared their lines from the kick-off with a long, high swirling kick.

Full-back Ben Jones misjudged the catch and the ball ricocheted of his head into the grateful arms off the chasers.

After a couple of fast phases, Guildford’s centre was in under the posts. The No 9 did not miss and it was 10-0 to the home side.

Then came Farnham’s purple patch of the half.

After a period of pressure, what happened next was either genius or good fortune. The Farnham line out was working well. Their standard drill is to marshal two pods to launch one of two potential catchers into the air.

To keep the opposition guessing, it remains a mystery until the hooker throws as to which pod will launch and who will catch.

On this occasion, the rear pod dummied and the front pod made to put Ben Adams up for the catch. But there was a slip from a lifter and Adams stumbled sideways.

Hooker Jon Vincent was committed to the throw, and it sailed over both earthbound catchers into the arms of mighty lock Harrison Horner at the back of the line out.

With the Guildford forwards focused on the lifting pods, he barged through the defending half backs and over for the try. Toby Salmon made a good conversion from wide out into a stiff breeze. It was 10-7 and game on.

When a maul in the Farnham 22 broke down, the referee’s whistle emitted yet another shrill blast and Guildford’s No 9 took the points to make it 13-7.

Soon after Toby Salmon’s kick for touch was charged down behind the goal line and a Guildford player gratefully fell upon the bouncing ball – 18-7 and half time beckoned.

The final minutes encapsulated all the drama of the first 40 but to their credit, the Farnham defence held firm.

The second half panned out in the same vein – only this time the Black and Whites were camped in the opposition half despite starting the half a man down.

Eventually a hard-chasing Ben Jones bundled into touch a Guildford defender who had fielded a deft cross field kick from Toby Salmon.

The pack set the maul from the line out and drove into the heart of the Guildford 22.

Big carries from Horner, Adams and “Animal” Simmons – on for Ben Brown with Adams moved from the row to the flank – took the ball to within striking distance from where Henderson administered the coup de grace.

Toby Salmon converted from in front of the posts and it was 18-14 with half-an-hour to play.

The game ebbed and flowed for the next 20 minutes, played mostly in the Guildford half but punctuated by handling errors and penalties.

Mike Salmon on for Farnes demonstrated how much he had missed playing in recent weeks with a number of signature runs – all knees, elbows and aggression – one of which took him over the line only to be adjudged held up.

The Farnham pack was also back in the game. It held its own at the scrum and found the pick and drive to be an effective weapon with which to make yards.

Following one such metre- eating effort, Toby Salmon noted the Guildford defence well sucked in and sprinted round the back of the melee and through a gap to release Alex Chalker on the right wing.

Hitherto Chalker had had a quiet game, but now he came to the party with pace enough to skin the defence and dot down out wide.

One could not see the flight of the ball from the clubhouse balcony, but the flags went up for Toby Salmon’s conversion attempt from the touch line and the score was now 21-18.

In the final act of the game, Toby missed what would have been the final penalty shot at goal and Guildford had no option but to play out from behind their goal line.

But their winger was soon bundled into touch by the ever-present Stennett.

The whistle sounded – what a win!

Report by Mark Weeks

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