Farnham secured second place in the Regional 2 South East table after a close encounter with fellow promotion rivals Reeds Weybridge.

Brilliant defence by the black and whites was helped by questionable decision making by the Reeds attack.

The high drama of the final minutes was preceded by a ding-dong battle.  

At lunch, the highly-hospitable hosts delighted in telling their guests their team liked to “fizz the ball about”. Well, that makes for two teams who enjoy playing it that way and Reeds’ firm, close-cropped first pitch would allow for it.  

Farnham’s familiar line-up of backs featured the three Salmon brothers, the ever-present Stennett, Ollie Brown back to starting at scrum half, Farnes, who is now inked in at ten, and a welcome return for speedster Max Williams on the wing.  

With the recent loss to injury of Mitchell (shoulder) and Henderson (concussion), the pack was reinforced by the return of Azevedo at prop alongside Matt Chapman with Ben Brown at hooker. 

The significant bulk of Harrison Horner joined Ben Adams in the row with back row regulars Comley and Vincent joined by debutant up from the seconds, Jack Haylett. 

There is a saying in rugby football that if you don’t notice a forward during the game, then he’s likely doing his job.  Thus, Haylett took to first team rugby.

Farnham made the slope tell with ten minutes after a classic series of punches from the forwards followed by a blistering break from Mike Salmon into the line from full back and the ball moved sharply out to Williams who went over out wide.  Toby missed the difficult conversion but Farnham led 5-0.

On 25 minutes Chapman picked up a niggle and was replaced by Woodhams at prop.  Perhaps the slope helped, as Farnham had parity in the set scrum in this half. 

However, after a period of sustained possession and effective phase play, the Reeds’ winger skipped up the touchline – and may even have clipped it, according to nearby away support but not according to the touch judge – and scored out wide.  

The conversion attempt dropped short so it was 5-5 on half an hour.

The game then became somewhat scrappy as both sides tried a little too hard to break down each other’s stern defence. 

Farnham had one more chance as the half came to a close with Ollie Brown taking a quick tap penalty to put Farnes into a gap but his pass to release Williams for the line was judged forward.

At the first set scrum of the half, Reeds took advantage of the slope and brutally shoved Farnham off their ball. 

Jemi Akin Olugbade was brought on to shore up the scrum. He had come to the game as a spectator but was dragooned into the side following an injury sustained during the warm-up.  

His initial appearance was short lived as in the ensuing scrummage, Farnham were again shoved backwards and the unfortunate Olugbade was judged to have precipitated the collapse and was carded.

The game now took on a pattern reminiscent of recent Farnham matches with the forwards losing heavily at the set scrum only for the backs to make their crunching tackles and the back row to pick themselves up off the floor and complete the resolute defence.  

Reminiscent of last week, Toby Salmon once again kicked a clearance dead. Thereafter, having seen off the Reeds counter attack, Farnham kept the ball in hand to edge up the field. Reeds infringed between the halfway line and their 22 and Toby Salmon stepped up to take what were to prove three crucial points, to go 8-5 ahead with half an hour to go.

With a penalty to Reeds almost guaranteed should the setpiece stay down, the Farnham trio of Ollie Brown with the put in, brother Ben Brown at hooker and Jonny Vincent at eight mastered the art of lightning-quick ball at the scrum.  

In a play similar to their opening score, a series of thrusts by the forwards sucked in the Reeds defence until the ball was spun out to Williams for his second try. The shot at goal was missed and it remained 13-53 with 15 minutes to play.

Those were long, nerve-shredding minutes for the travelling faithful. The dominant Reeds scrum kept Farnham pinned in their half where desperate defence kept the home side out.  

Jonny Vincent was yellow carded for skulduggery at the breakdown and, eventually, following a catch and drive at the line out, Reeds powered over in front.  

A simple conversion made it 13-12 and the home side raced back to receive the restart.  This they did and stormed back down the hill into the Farnham half.

It would not be unjust to say that at this moment, Reeds lost their collective heads – perhaps as a result of Farnham’s stalwart defence.  

They were winning their scrum penalties on the Farnham five-metre line. All they had to do, so most on the touchline thought, was keep the ball in the scrum and shove the visitors over their line or have them collapse and cough up the penalty try. 

But they did not do this. 

Finally, in desperation, the Reeds scrum half took a quick tap penalty and fizzed the ball beyond his winger and into touch.  

Farnham won their line out, cleared their lines and the final whistle blew. 

Of this season’s great escapes by the Black and Whites, this was by far the greatest.

Mark Weeks