Farnham Rugby Club’s men’s first team have progressed to the next round of the Papa Johns Community Cup after winning 28-21 at London Irish Wild Geese in the first round.

The visitors fielded a fresh-looking side that gave opportunities to academy graduates returning from university for the holidays and some second team players who have impressed throughout the season.

Farnham kicked off the cup tie into the wind. The Wild Geese started the better with some strong forward carries.

However, no matter the new faces, Farnham’s well-organised defence kept them at bay.

Alex Hill, Farnham’s fly-half, got his team’s attack going by moving the ball wide. A strong run down the wing by young debutant Tobias Trafford was followed by strong carries from first team regulars Jonny Vincent and Harrison Horner to give Farnham some territory.

Opportunities for Farnham to open the scoring were let down by individual errors.

The Wild Geese came back strongly, and after a period of constant pressure opened the scoring 25 minutes into the game with a strong carry from their number eight, who was busy all afternoon.

Farnham sought an immediate response and put together some good phases to break the Wild Geese defence.

However, as the half drew to a close, Farnham went aerial off the boot and the unsighted referee failed to pick up the fumble and subsequent offside. The Wild Geese player was quick to react to the lack of a whistle and sprinted in.

The conversion was the final act of the first half, and the home side led 14-0 at half-time.

Farnham knew they needed to strike first in the second half and play in the right areas.

Both teams went for the direct approach and made powerful yards.

The penalty count started to rise. A tackle off the ball sent Callum Jones to the bin for ten minutes, but this didn’t affect Farnham. The defence stood strong with some big tackles by Reece Stennett and flankers Tom Foster and Haylett.

The coaches rang the changes and Harry West came on at scrum-half and Ollie Brown shifted out to fly-half. Young Harry Lewis-Gorton came on at prop for an accomplished performance on debut.

Farnham then camped on the home side’s line. Three surging mauls were halted illegally and on the third a home player was carded. Eventually veteran Foster powered over to close the gap. The conversion was successful and the game was finely poised at 14-7.

With the Wild Geese down to 14 players, several high and handsome box kicks from West kept Farnham in the right areas. From a lineout just inside the home side’s 22, the forwards kept it tight with strong carries towards the posts before the backs reversed the point of attack. Ollie Brown found Toby Salmon in space, and he dummied the winger to score Farnham’s second try. The conversion was successful to make it 14-14, and Farnham had the momentum with 20 minutes to go.

With both teams now back to 15 a side, it was all about who would hold their nerve. The Wild Geese attempted to play out of their own half but then their number ten looked up for space to kick the ball and sliced the attempt into the hands of Jones. He was quick to pounce, brilliantly stepping the full-back to run in under the posts.

The conversion was successful, and Farnham led 21-14 with eight minutes to go.

The Wild Geese responded quickly with some strong carries and phases, but Farnham’s defence was superb, and the ball was turned over in the Farnham 22.

The ball was spun out but the clearance kick was charged down into the grateful arms of a Wild Geese second rower, who barged over under the posts to tie the scores at 21-21.

Farnham kicked the restart long and immediately went on the attack. Strong runs from Trafford and Vincent gave Farnham momentum and field position. Ollie Brown marshalled the forwards well and the team kept to their structure until the chance appeared. Ollie Brown flung the ball wide to Salmon who picked off the Wild Geese forwards in front of him and passed to Ben Brown lurking outside. Ben Brown steamed down the wing to score the match-winning try from 25 metres out.

It was a superb team try to put Farnham ahead, and the conversion was successful. 

The Wild Geese kicked the restart to Vincent, who hoofed it into touch to herald the final whistle and put Farnham into the next round.

The visitors had produced a solid team performance, with promising debuts from Trafford, Hill, Jones, Rian Stutley and Lewis-Gorton, as well as a first appearance of the season in the first team for Foster.

Farnham have been drawn at home to Woodford in the second round and the tie will be played on Saturday, April 15.

Toby Salmon