Farnham Rugby Club’s first team slipped to a 40-17 defeat at home to Battersea Ironsides in Regional 2 South East last Saturday (March 4).

It was a busy day at Monkton Lane on Saturday as Farnham hosted four teams – the highlight of the day was the unveiling of a portrait of much-missed club president Geoff Bond set above a plaque featuring the badges of the many clubs he played for. 

The fourth team were just the wrong side of an 80-point try-fest against Andover, while the veterans, second team and first team played against a large contingent down from Battersea Ironsides.

A firm surface and a slight but chilly northerly breeze meant the scene was set for the first team’s game.

Ironsides kicked off with the breeze at their back. After five minutes of sparring, and after flanker Toby Comley had won a brilliant turnover, Farnham were on the attack when winger Max Williams spilled the pass. The visitors seized the opportunity in broken play to spin the ball from right to left and release their left winger. His chip over the top bounced kindly into the arms of Cam Baker who popped the ball inside for their winger – also named Williams – to score in front of the posts. The conversion was simple.

The visitors cleared from the restart into the arms of Toby Salmon, who hoofed the ball back and chased hard. Salmon picked up an injury to his arm in the resulting collision and had to leave the field. Chalker came on to the wing with Stennett shuffled into the centres. Ben Adams picked up the mantle of skipper.

In Ironsides’ next attack Stennett put in yet another of his trademark try-saving cover tackles, but at the ensuing five-metre scrum the visitors’ sizeable and dynamic number eight powered over in front of the posts. Battersea led 14-0 after 15 minutes.

Farnham struck back from the restart. The Ironsides’ catcher set off to return the ball in hand but the referee spotted obstruction of the Farnham chasers and awarded the home side the penalty.

Farnes kicked to the corner and the catch and drive was executed to perfection with Toby Comley powering over, ably assisted by the bulk of Harrison Horner. Horner had a good game, punching holes in midfield and halting powerful runners on more than one occasion. Tim Salmon stepped up to convert in the absence of his brother and made an excellent job of it from out wide and into the breeze to make it 14-7.

The match ebbed and flowed for the next quarter on an hour. Ironsides’ big runners made inroads, only to be rebuffed by the Farnham defence. Ben Brown at hooker made more than his fair share of tackles and Mike Salmon stood tall and firm when he collected a high ball and the chaser crashed into him only to slump the floor. The Farnham backs threatened, and in one brilliant training ground move off the back of the scrum released Farnes up the blind side – only for his chip forward to find touch.

However, Farnham’s attacks were failing too often with the ball knocked on or spilled. From their scrum on the Farnham ten-metre line, Ironsides launched another blistering attack which required another try-saving tackle by Stennett to halt their progress. The ball was quickly recycled from left to right where Baker made ground and popped a classy off load to Waters on the right wing, who went over out wide. The conversion was missed, but the visitors led 19-7.

Farnham won their restart and kept the pressure on Ironsides. Good interplay between forwards Jemi Akin-Olugbade and Sam Woodhams sent Tim Salmon down the flank and he dabbed the ball into touch well inside the Ironsides 22. Farnham disrupted their lineout and put in a strong series of phases through the forwards. The ball was released to the backs, and Mike Salmon sent a long looping pass to brother Tim that cut out two Ironsides defenders. He made the most of the space and bustled up the five-metre channel, shrugging off the attentions of the cover defence to power over out wide. Another good conversion by Tim Salmon meant the score was 19-14 at half-time.

Farnham followed up their restart well and pinned Ironsides into their half, where they conceded a penalty, and Tim Salmon made it 19-17.

The visitors put in a prolonged period of possession, and with the phases sucking in the Black and White defence Williams went through again and scored under the posts. The conversion was missed.

Ironsides had their collective tails up now and seemed able to break the Farnham line at will. Farnham’s scramble defence held, but the referee sent Marco Azevedo to the sin bin. Eager to widen the gap, the visitors took the points on offer and led 27-17.

The influential Mike Salmon came off with a gash to the head and Jarred Cooper filled the slot at full back. More desperate defence from Farnham saw them dive over the ruck in front of the posts, and Ironsides took the three points.

With Azevedo back on and a full 15 on the pitch, Farnham needed to get something from the game – even if it was only a try bonus point – and threw everything into attack. 

This proved to be their undoing and produced a final score that belied the competitive nature of the match. Twice, promising attacks by Farnham came unstuck and twice Battersea runners were granted open space between the breakdown and the Farnham line. Both tries were unconverted. The final score was 40-17 and once again the Ironsides proved to be the Black and White’s bogey team.

Farnham’s first team will make the trip to Old Reigatians today (Saturday). The team will be playing to secure second place – the highest league position in the club’s history.

Report: Mark Weeks

Photos: Julian Frost