Old Cranleighans 5pts, Farnham 27pts
AFTER a bruising first half, Farnham went up through the gears to produce three magical tries in a breathtaking second period – and the final result of 27-5, with Old Cranleighans scoring a consolation try on the full-time whistle, was a fair reflection of play.
The Farnham faithful were out in force to drive on the Black and Whites and Old Cranleighans have been a benchmark club for Farnham. Over the past 15 years or so, Farnham have enjoyed tremendous tussles with them in league and cup competitions. These games have ended in a one-score difference either way. However, this season has seen a shift with two big Farnham wins and an overall points difference of 76.
The first half of this bruiser had Old Cranleighans on the ropes for much of the action. They are renowned for their organised defence and all, to a man, tackle as if their lives depend on it. Farnham battered the home ramparts but the aggressive defence held firm.
On two occasions the Farnham pressure did tell – first, a penalty for offside was converted by Toby Salmon. Then, after a sequence of five penalties to Farnham in the home 22, the referee showed a yellow card to the Old Cranleighans No8. Farnham decided on the scrum but the hosts went early and a free kick was awarded. Farnham’s No8 and this season’s top try scorer, Liam Welch, took the quick decision to tap and go and barged over for his 14th try for an 8-0 half-time lead.
Farnham threw everything at the home defence in the first half, attacking from wide out through wingers Reece Stennett and Stan Marisa. They were driven back. They also attacked from close in with Welch, Simmons and Naisbitt with the same result from a solid Cranleighian defensive wall. Would Old Cranleighans’ Herculean efforts take their toll?
As the second half opened, it was apparent Farnham were determined to run the ball at every opportunity. With the back row of Comley, Welch and Mitzi supporting centres Kavanagh and Weeks and the Salmon brothers Toby and Michael pulling the strings, Farnham ramped up the pace and the pressure. The result was three audacious tries.
The first was orchestrated by Michael Salmon. He received the ball ten metres inside his own half and floated a 30-metre pass to younger brother Toby. He set off on a mazy, crazy run through the heart of the Old Cranleighans defence before being hauled down short of the line. The support was quick and the ball spirited out to an unstoppable Michael Salmon who appeared 70 metres away on the opposite wing to his original pass – an outstanding effort by the Salmon boys. The conversion was made and Farnham’s lead was 15-0 as the dam finally burst.
After a series of sweeping attacks, Reece Stennett was held up on the home 22 but skipper Olí Brown was in quickly to fire a pass to Toby Salmon. He jinked to the home 22, stood still and popped a pass to Ed Weeks who at full pace raced untouched through the gap under the posts to make it 22-0.
More was to come with a team try. Ben Adams, who was immense throughout, supported by Azevado, Joris and Naisbitt, stole an Old Cranleighans line-out on the Farnham 22 to put Michael Salmon away down the right wing. Yards gained, Salmon senior popped the ball inside to Salmon junior who had Marisa on his outside who, with plenty of pace, made the finish a certainty.
This was the third of three jaw-dropping tries that were all team efforts and all richly deserved.
The last play of the game saw two debatable lineouts awarded to Old Cranleighans with the resultant five-metre catch and drive producing a consolation try much to the delight of the vociferous home support.
This was a superb second-half performance by the Black and Whites, producing some of the tries of the season. Fitness, organisation and sheer brilliance had won the day.
Tomorrow, Farnham entertain Eastleigh at Monkton Lane in their quest for promotion to National 1 South (kick-off 2.30pm).
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