Farnham slipped to a thrilling 47-34 defeat at Regional Two South Central leaders Jersey on Saturday afternoon.
The opening ten minutes was a battle for territory, and despite some big carries from the Jersey forwards Farnham’s defence held firm. An early injury to scrum half Harry West meant a backline reshuffle with Ollie Brown moving to nine and Ben Jones slotting in at ten. Chris Durringer joined Callum Jones in the centre to provide power and aggression, with Fin Sloan dropping back to 15.
Jersey opened the scoring after some good phase play enabled tighthead Tom Wilson to power over under the posts after 15 minutes. Farnham had to withstand a lot of pressure in the next five minutes, with Jersey’s big runners coming at them hard and fast. However, Josh Watson and Jules Joris halted the Jersey attack and earned a penalty to relieve the pressure.
Farnham got their hands on the ball with the experienced duo of Brown and Jones launching a series of well drilled and penetrative attacks. Eventually Farnham kicked a penalty to the corner where a brilliantly set maul crept towards the line from which the towering Marcus Lambert-Parsons wriggled free to touch down. The conversion was successful, and the match was tied at 7-7.
Farnham effectively cleared their lines off the restart and followed up with an aggressive defence that saw Jersey make some rash decisions. Farnham regained possession on the halfway line and a superb inside ball from Ben Jones found Oscar Henderson, who charged through the first line of defence and ran over the Jersey fullback to score under the posts. Toby Salmon’s conversion was good, and Farnham had their noses in front.
Jonathan Vincent came off the bench and immediately won a penalty at the breakdown. Brown took a quick tap and broke into the Jersey 22.
A few tight phases followed before the ball was moved to Ben Jones and then to Salmon, who stepped the Jersey fly half and sprinted in to score Farnham’s third try. The successful conversion meant Farnham led 21-7.
With ten minutes left in the half, Farnham had to remain switched on to stay in control.
However, a long Jersey kick pinned Farnham into their 22, where a penalty to Jersey put the pressure on. A series of close carries got them close to the line before Jersey skipper Evan Whitson dotted down.
The conversion narrowed the gap to 21-14. Farnham had to see out the half without any further punishment, but a Jersey breakout saw Sloan yellow carded for not releasing.
The penalty was missed and the teams gathered for half-time with the visitors ahead.
Farnham knew they had a tricky ten-minute period from the restart with one man down. Jersey kicked off and came out firing. A series of powerful carries got them in behind, where they made the man advantage tell with the ball moved wide to winger Anushan Elanco who scored in the corner. The conversion attempt slid past the post.
Farnham came back well. A clever chip and chase by Ben Jones put Farnham into the Jersey 22 where Jersey winger Dylan Stocks was penalised for a high tackle. The referee did not take kindly to Stocks’ vociferous opinion of the decision and showed him a yellow card. Salmon knocked over the penalty to make it 24-19.
A knock on from the restart put Farnham back under pressure. The Jersey heavies now dominated their slighter opponents who had given their all – and more – in the opening hour of the game.
Farnham managed to repel the initial attack, but Jersey inched ever closer to the line with hooker Euan Spencer eventually dotting down. The conversion by Aaron Penberthy was successful and Jersey had their noses in front 26-24.
Farnham were now back to 15 men and needed to respond. However, perhaps wearied by their endeavours to date, ill-discipline and errors cost them field position.
Jersey kicked to the corner and continued to use their forwards to pound the Farnham line. Their patience paid off with a try by prop Nathan Thomas wide on the right. Penberthy added the extras and Jersey were 33-24 up with a quarter of the match to go.
Jack Haylett replaced Watson to give Farnham some fresh energy. Some solid attacking phases followed but the visitors needed to remain patient against a well drilled defence. A lovely inside ball from Sloan to Toby Simmons broke the deadlock. The pacey Simmons beat two defenders, drew the full back and deftly off-loaded to Salmon who ran in under the posts to secure the try bonus point. Salmon’s conversion made it 33-31 with 15 minutes to play.
The Farnham supporters let it be known that the home side had a game on their hands, but their team started to feel the strain of the game.
At one point there were four black and white shirts on the deck needing treatment.
Doughty hooker Joris, who had retired with a suspected broken finger, was strapped up and returned to the fray.
A knock on gave the Jersey scrum another opportunity to drive forward with the Farnham defence beginning to tire, allowing Jack Macfarlane to become the third red-shirted front row man on the scoresheet. The conversion made it 40-31 with ten minutes to go.
Farnham refused to lie down, and Sloan broke the line to put Farnham deep into Jersey territory. Moments later, a high tackle gave Farnham a penalty 35 metres out.
The decision was made to take the points and bring the game back to a single score and the chance of a second bonus point and maybe more. Toby Salmon stepped up and reduced Jersey’s lead to 40-34.
Farnham dealt with the restart well, but injuries had now reduced the team to 14.
Jersey had the final say after yet another rolling maul from their heavies allowed Macfarlane to dot down for his second try. The successful conversion put the game beyond Farnham’s reach at 47-34, and Jersey saw out the remaining few minutes to win a truly thrilling contest.
“A try bonus point is scant reward for such a monumental effort,” said Farnham skipper Toby Salmon. “Every player can be proud of how they pushed Jersey every inch of the way collectively as a team and with many stand-out individual performances.
“On behalf of the team, I would like to thank the travelling Farnham faithful who gave great support and made a great deal of noise despite being heavily outnumbered.”