Farnham Falcons 10pts, Newbury Women 17pts

A PRE-MATCH pep talk from Team GB wheelchair rugby star Kylie Grimes launched Farnham Falcons into their second home game of the season against Newbury Women on Sunday.

Despite playing some great rugby, the newly-formed Falcons came up short by a single score against their well-established opposition.

Quickly into the game, Newbury found a gap in the Farnham defence and broke through with an early converted try. The Falcons tightened their defensive line and put pressure on Newbury team, but in doing so conceded a kickable penalty to find themselves 10-0 down.

The Falcons began to dominate up front with strong rucks and quick offloads. One such swift offload from Rachel Gold to Sophie Jones set the ball off down the line. Strong runs from Sophia Spencer, Laura Johnson and Beki Hardman set up Steph Thompson for a powerful drive from which Nicole Higgs crashed over for the Falcons’ first try to cut the arrears to 10-5.

The rest of the first half was an end-to-end affair with penalties dominating proceedings. Eventually Newbury broke out, but the Falcons defence was a force to be reckoned with. Becky Phillips’ tackle slowed down the attack and then Sophies Lee-Perkins and Jones worked in perfect harmony to snuff out the danger.

The Falcons then went on the attack. Stealing the Newbury line-out inside the their own 22, the Falcons launched a series of attacks through the backs with smart interplay between Amy Smyth and Verity Powell finding space for Hannah Hasim on the wing. Having beaten the first line of defence, Hassim was unlucky not to score as she was held up over the line.

Early in the second half, the Falcons’ strong scrummaging laid the platform for Sarah Ward to gain yards with the pick and go and put the Falcons on the front foot. However, one lapse in concentration by the Falcons defence saw the Newbury girls seize their opportunity to cross for their second try. The kick at goal was successful and Newbury pulled ahead 17-5.

Undeterred, the Falcons came tearing back. Jacinta Bethell, on as a front row finisher, showed great technique to secure good ball from the set piece. From this solid platform, Karen Webb – another “finisher” – put Amy Smyth in space with a lovely pass. Amy then freed up Lee-Perkins to slice through the Newbury defence and score Farnham’s second try to cut the gap to 17-10.

Farnham came back from the restart and used short runs and neat pop-passes to keep Newbury pinned in their 22. A Farnham lineout set up the driving mall and from its base Amber Schonert dove for the line – only for a desperate but effective defender to dislodge the ball and the knock-on was awarded.

Despite this setback, the Falcons piled on the pressure and moments later Laura Johnson was held up over the line. The Falcons’ pressure was sustained for the last five, nail-biting minutes but the Newbury defence held.

Farnham player-coach Karen Webb said: “The Falcons squad is aged from 17 to some on the other side of 40. Nevertheless, the bond is strong. To put it all together and come up with performances like we have game after game for our first three competitive matches is a testimony to the positive attitude of this group of players.”