Profligate Farnham miss opportunities to earn win

The balcony at Monkton Lane was full of spectators who enjoyed a closely-fought battle. Photo by Julian Frost

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FARNHAM scored a late try to earn a 20-20 draw against Guildford in the first ever meeting between the two sides.

The scene was set beforehand - the clubhouse was awash with 100 or so diners to greet visitors from the Rugby Football Union including the next president Nigel Gillingham and Surrey chairman John Pownall.

The clubs have been going in differing directions over recent years - Farnham on the way up while Guildford have floundered, so there was everything to play for.

Farnham kicked off into a stiff swirling breeze sweeping in from the Town End.

Early scuffles were not tolerated by the referee, who had an almost flawless afternoon.

The game started at pace - both sides had explosive quick back rows so pressure and tackling were of a premium.

Jonny Vincent, who honed his rugby in the unforgiving South West leagues, and new talisman Oscar Henderson, backed by the ever present Toby Comley, had their own mini battle against a lively Guildford trio.

Marco Azevado, enjoying his 50th appearance in the Black and White, threatened on the charge and the early territory was Farnham’s way.

As in all sports the weather plays its part and thundering clearances kept pushing the home team into reverse.

From a line out in the Guildford 22 an overthrown Farnham ball released flanker Devereux and slick hands left the Farnham flank exposed with former Farnham winger Joe Wigmore racing over for the first score.

An easy conversion for King put the visitors 7-0 up.

Farnham were being put under pressure by the fast of the mark Guildford defence, forcing quicker and quicker reactions in the Farnham back line.

Attacks faltered because of the pressure and in some cases poor unsympathetic passes - there seems to be a current trend for bullet passes to be fizzed even though the recipient is three or four yards away.

From a scrum 15 metres out skipper Oli Brown released the backs through Matt Farnes, and a rehearsed move saw Toby Salmon on the loop and he went over untouched under the posts.

The conversion was added and Farnham were back on level terms.

Was it the wind, or the two sides cancelling each other out, that made it a frenetic, somewhat scrappy first half?

Both teams made inroads -- but came away empty handed.

The Guildford penalty count was on the rise with countless offsides at the gain line.

With the clock running down Farnham launched an attack and were held just short of the line - illegally deemed the referee and three points for Toby Salmon gave the home side a 10-7 lead at half time.

In the last two games Farnham have used their three replacements by half time and it was no different in this match.

Matt Farnes had already been replaced by Dec Kavanagh and prop Ben Edwards by Guy Williams when Oscar Peterson, stunned in a late in the first half tackle had to be replaced by Nathan Phillimore.

Once more winger Reece Stennett was drafted into the back row.

The disruptions seemed to effect the normally sprightly Farnham back division and it was down to the forward pack to put the pressure on.

Ben Adams and Jordan Frost in the second row and the ageless hooker Jules Joris put in a real shift in both defence and attack.

Guildford produced two hammer blows in the first few minutes of the second half as tries from flanker Madge and winger Vincent put the visitors 17-10 ahead with still the bulk of the half to go.

Gradually the tide turned and aided by the strengthening breeze Guildford were once more entrenched in their own 22.

A Guildford offside gave Farnham a penalty, and Toby Salmon added the three points.

Time and time again Farnham threatened and on each occasion desperate defence kept them at bay.

Hills looked almost certain to score when he was caught with a try saving tackle, a series of Farnham pick and drive attempts were all snuffed out and finally in desperation an attack down the left wing saw centre Phillimore neck tackled with the line begging.

Guildford flanker Devereux was sent to the sin bin.

Back battled Guildford and with five minutes to go Farnham conceded a needless penalty under their posts.

King easily added the three points to put Guildford seven points clear at 20-13.

Farnham had to respond and did. Azevado went on the charge and was held. Adams on the charge and was tackled.

The home side were awarded a penalty, which was quickly taken by scrum half Oli Brown.

With Guildford in disarray, quick ruck ball ended up with Dec Cavanagh in under the posts for the last action of a scrappy but pulsating afternoon. Toby Salmon’s conversion sealed the draw.

The general consensus was that Farnham butchered at least three tries. Perhaps - but huge credit to the Guildford defence who battled tirelessly, particularly in the second half.

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