FARNHAM Rugby Club fell to a 40-19 defeat at home to Camberley in London 1 South.
This postponed derby game was much anticipated by both clubs following good wins the previous weekend. Farnham had put Hammersmith and Fulham to the sword, while Camberley had handed London Welsh their first home league defeat in five seasons.
However, the Farnham faithful were taken aback to learn that – for the first time in seven years – injury had deprived the 1st XV team sheet of not one, but any of the Salmon brothers. Camberley too had to make six changes to their winning team.
Despite the change in personnel, it was a good game of rugby between two talented and committed sides. There is no doubt Camberley deserved their victory, but, with better luck, fewer errors and more clinical finishing by the Black and Whites, the score might have been a lot closer.
The first 40 minutes illustrated the point. Despite playing into a stiff breeze, Farnham spent most of those minutes camped in Camberley’s half.
However, the entire game was dominated by fast blitz defence from both sides, and Farnham’s freshly formed half-back pairing of Rhys Basset at scrum half and Ollie Brown at fly half struggled to set free the centres Jarred Cooper and James Corlett.
An ex-regular first teamer now playing mostly for the second and third teams, Corlett brought wise and able stability to the Salmon-less mid-field.
Therefore, Farnham’s attack was based on strong carries from the forwards to put the Camberley defence on the back foot. Jamie Low and Harrison Horner were both effective in this role for the home side.
The established front row of Marco Azevedo, Jules Joris and Ben Edwards initially had the nudge on their opposite numbers despite conceding quite a few kilograms. On the flanks, Jonny Vincent and Toby Comley made nuisances of themselves all match long.
Oscar Henderson at number eight won turnovers at critical times and was held up over the line after a powerful drive.
Farnham spent 15 minutes pounding the Camberley lines only to be repelled by dogged defence and the powerful boot of Camberley’s Liam Prescott.
Eventually the visitors broke out and Farnham suffered their first stroke of bad luck when an attempt to intercept was adjudged a deliberate knock-on despite the ball going backwards.
Penalty to the corner, a strong drive and a neat pop pass put the Camberley centre over under the posts.
Back came Farnham. As the hosts attacked from the halfway line, Cooper was tackled hard by a Camberley player.
The ball was dislodged and Camberley flood forward. The Farnham defence was in disarray and the visitors went over out wide. The conversion was missed, but Cambeley led 12-0 after 25 minutes.
Despite the scoreline, Farnham were very much in the game. Camberley infringed to keep out the Black and Whites and eventually the referee showed a yellow card to the Camberley hooker.
As the half-time whistle beckoned, the see-saw nature of the encounter was well illustrated.
Farnham had a line out on the Camberley five-meter line. The maul was taken down illegally and Farnham opted for the scrum. Off the base, Henderson burst for the line only to be held up.
The drop out restart from under the posts reached the halfway line, where Farnham knocked on.
However, the forwards retrieved the situation by winning the penalty at the scrum. The kick to the corner was good, but Camberley wrestled the ball from Farnham at the ensuing maul and break out.
For all the world, the try was on but for a last-ditch tackle from full back Ben Jones and a scramble on the line by Toby Comley, who had tracked back with the Camberley support player to force the knock on.
This was only the fourth time in the match Camberley had got into the Farnham half.
Farnham had the wind at their back in the second half. Hopes of an upset remained.
Jules Joris won an early turnover in the second half and once again the penalty to the corner set up the catch and drive. But the ball was overthrown. Camberley hacked on, retrieved the ball and spun it wide, aiming for their talismanic winger Oyoni Gbla.
However, full-back Jones was once more on the spot to intercept and sprint 50 meters to open the home side’s account. Rhys Bassett added the conversion.
Camberley struck back five minutes later in unfortunate circumstances. The Farnham pack had been dominant all game long and earned several scrum penalties, but at a five-metre defensive scrum the referee adjudged prop Marco Azevedo to have deliberately brought down the scrum and he was shown a yellow card.
Camberley reset the scrum and the reorganised Farnham pack had no answer to the Camberley forwards, which was now restored to eight men. A push over try was scored and the conversion was well taken to put the visitors 19-7 up.
Soon after the restart Camberley drift off-side again, and Bassett pinged the ball into the corner – but the Farnham throw went astray.
Camberley were quick to reset from defence to attack and spun the ball to winger Owen, who raced down the line and over. Another good conversion made it 26-7.
In almost a carbon copy, some minutes later, Farnham had the throw on the Camberley five metre line – but the target was missed and two phases later Camberley’s Gbla went over the Farnham line and Macnamara converted to make it 33-7.
With 15 minutes left to play, there were murmurs on the Farnham balcony that this could become a rout.
However, the team was made of sterner stuff. The backs were reshuffled with Ollie Brown back to his familiar role of scum half and Jones – who was having an excellent game – moved into the ten slot. Nathan Phillimore came on for Basset who had emptied the tank in an excellent shift.
Farnham stuck to their fast, multi-phase, all-team game and before long a gap appeared for Gabe Hills to pierce with a deft kick and chase.
Jarred Cooper converted to make the score 33-14.
Thoughts of a miracle come back were banished at the restart. A superb high hanging kick put doubt in Farnham minds. The ball was spilt and recovered by the visitors, who unleashed their powerful centres to combine for the score under the posts. An easy conversion made it 40-14.
The weighty Camberley pack were now dominant and, but for a forward pass at the last, the visitors would have scored again.
To their credit, the Farnham team did not lie down.
Camberley’s discipline let them down once more, and a yellow card was shown – this time for back chat.
From that penalty, the Farnham line out worked well – at last – and after a couple of phases from the forwards to suck in the defence, Ben Jones broke the line and released Jarred Cooper for a well-deserved try. The conversion attempt was missed.
The restart from Camberley was collected deep in the Farnham 22, from where the home team played multiple phases to inch their way forward and threaten to break out.
The visitors conceded yet another canny penalty and Farnham went for the line out – but what could have been was not to be as the line out let them down once again.
Report by Mark Weeks