Farnham returned to winning ways with a 25-14 victory against Witney in Regional Two South Central.
After an encouraging performance at league leaders Jersey, Farnham faced a Witney side who had got the better of them earlier in the season.
Farnham welcomed Witney to Monkton Lane on a calm afternoon and, thanks to excellent work in trying conditions by groundsman Steve Tomlinson, a good surface for rugby.
Farnham kicked off and started the game well.
After the inevitable exchange of clearance kicks was won by the returning Jack Scullion’s long-range boot, Toby Simmons made good yards down the left before the ball was recycled to Ben Jones. He found Fin Sloan who burst through the tackle before stepping the full-back to dot down for Farnham’s first try.
The conversion was missed, but Farnham led 5-0 after just three minutes’ play.
Farnham continued to use Scullion’s boot to pin Witney back in their half. Witney fielded a big, aggressive pack that used their scrum and maul to get momentum. Their first set play attack produced a sharp move between Rob Coe at eight and Keir MacDougall at scrum half to pierce Farnham’s blindside defence.
MacDougal found winger Callum Godfrey on hand to dive into the corner. The successful conversion gave Witney a 7-5 lead.
Farnham continued to move the ball in attack with Josh Watson and Marco Azevedo making good inroads. However, some inaccurate passing stalled the try scoring opportunities.
Nevertheless, Witney were caught offside in front of the posts and Toby Salmon took the three points on offer to take a narrow 8-7 lead.
Despite not being 100 per cent accurate, Farnham created plenty of opportunities.
A midfield scrum on the Witney 22 was their next. The backs’ move didn’t quite go to plan, however Callum Jones dived on the loose ball before offloading from the floor to Salmon, who shrugged off one defender and stepped inside the last man to score Farnham’s second try. The successful conversion made it 15-7.
Witney came back hard, and their powerful forwards tested the Farnham defence.
A breakaway would have seen them narrow the gap had it not been for the heroic efforts of Farnham’s scramble defence. The half-time whistle sounded with Farnham retaining their 15-7 lead.
Farnham started the second half well. Witney conceded a couple of penalties which allowed Farnham to kick for the corner and get their rolling maul going.
Matt Kouris was back in the side and his throw-ins were on point all afternoon. Harrison Horner powered close to the line before Witney illegally halted any more progress. Salmon took the three penalty points on offer and Farnham extended their lead to 18-7.
The game now became a fiercely physical battle with neither defence giving an inch.
Farnham’s next chance came when a dropped Witney pass was hacked on by Salmon with the tryline begging. However, the ball did not reward Salmon’s footballing skills and scuttled over the dead ball line.
Watson was then given ten minutes in the sin bin for an off the ball incident.
With the man advantage Witney kicked for the corner, and despite being initially halted they powered over for their second try. The successful conversion made it 18-14.
Witney’s blood was up, and they sensed a last-minute turnover such as that which won them the reverse fixture.
Meanwhile, Farnham had to control the next ten minutes a man down.
This they did successfully by, among other things, bringing on fresh legs.
Chris Duringer came on in the centres to replace Sloan. Raoul Larkins came on in the front row with Jack Buxton – both players were making their first team debut.
The game ebbed and flowed, and Farnham had their chances.
Witney had an attacking lineout in Farnham’s 22 but this time the maul was halted, forcing them to go to the backs. The ball was lost forward and kicked ahead by Ben Jones and regathered by Salmon. Farnham were now threatening in Witney’s 22 but the pass from the breakdown was knocked on.
Witney cleared their lines with a couple of minutes left and earned an attacking lineout on halfway. However, a leaping Buxton stole the ball and Ollie Brown broke away to release the pressure.
The ball was released to Ben Jones, who found Salmon. He dummied his opposite man and broke through the line. He passed to Callum Jones, who headed for the corner but was stopped short. However, Scullion had followed up and was on Jones’ shoulder to take the offload and finish off the try in the corner.
Salmon completed a good afternoon with the boot by converting from out wide and the full-time whistle blew.
Farnham travel to basement side Reading on Saturday.