FARNHAM will be playing at the highest level in their 45-year history next season.
With the season three-quarters completed, the game’s rulers decided to calculate final league tables based on a ‘best playing record’ formula.
Under these rules, Farnham were promoted to London 1 South, while the Alton Silverbacks will next season play in London South West 3.
Farnham chairman Geoff Robins said: “It’s a massive achievement.
“Two seasons ago we did the double with promotion to London South West 2 and winning the RFU Junior Vase at Twickenham.
“This ranks with that achievement, not least because it shows this club does not rest its laurels.
“In those two years our membership has grown across all sections, notably in the women’s and girls’ section. We now put out five senior sides most Saturdays, have a waiting list to join the minis and the junior section has individual age groups of 50 players or more.
“A rugby club’s momentum is driven by the success of it first team.”
Alton were equally delighted with their promotion. “This is a great achievement and represents our third promotion in three seasons,” said the club.
“And what a far cry from the 2014/15 season when we were relegated to our lowest-ever position in the leagues, Hampshire 2.
“In the 2017/18 season, a senior player meeting was held to look at what Alton RFC players wanted to achieve. Their ambition was to play fun, effective rugby and get promoted back to the London leagues –at that point three promotions away) – by the 2021/22 season.
“That was a very stiff target when our position was mid-table in Hampshire 2.
“Through hard work, determination and the great talent that is produced from our age-grade section, Alton RFC consolidated and gained promotion to Hampshire 1.
“This was won with panache and in the following season led to promotion to the new Hampshire Premier league.
“It was a much bigger challenge, but the Silverbacks met it head on and continued an unbeaten league run that in the end ran to a total of 420 days. They smashed their pre-season goals of finishing in the top third of the league and winning more games than were lost.
“When the 2019/20 season was terminated early by the Covid-19 breakout, Alton Silverbacks were firmly in the second spot in the Hampshire Premiership and the team had achieved a rise of 30 places in the leagues in less than three years.
“They had amassed 78 per cent of the total points available up to that point of the season.
“The team have achieved London SW3 status two seasons ahead of their audacious schedule.”
Forty different players pulled on the black and white for Farnham’s first XV this season – only one of whom, winger Reece Stennett, appeared in all 22 league and cup fixtures.
On many occasions, second XV players were called up to fill gaps created by injury or unavailability.
“On each occasion these players slotted into the team shape, game plan and ethos. This is a tribute to director of rugby Garry Stennett and his coaches Ali Chisholm and Max Crumpton for creating a ‘one-squad’ regime across the senior club,” said a spokesman.
“That regime no doubt contributed to Farnham’s second XV coming second in the highly-competitive Surrey Premiership and to the third XV’s unbeaten, championship season in Surrey Combination 1.
“This strength in depth will be crucial to the first XV’s success come next season’s challenge.
“When ex-Farnham Junior player Jonny Wilkinson was asked how it was he scored so many points, his answer was: ‘I only get the points because I have teammates who do the work and put me in the position to get them.’
“We can be sure the sentiment is shared by current Farnham fly-half Toby Salmon who scored an astonishing 268 of the team’s total haul of 664 in league and cup games. He was not only the team goal kicker, but also top try scorer with 18.”