Farnham lost two crucial cup games last Saturday (April 22), but the club can walk away from this season with its head held high.
In the morning the men’s academy played Guildford Colts at Twickenham Stoop – the home of Harlequins – in the final of the Quins Cup.
The game was nicely poised at half-time with the score 19-12 to Guildford. Farnham’s two tries in the half were from a fabulous step and break in midfield by fly-half Stanley Platt followed by the best team try of the match with the ball flowing through the hands of the forwards and backs to be finished off by Eddie Buckton on the wing.
In the second half, Guildford’s powerful pack and international-class backs got the better of the Farnham lads to run out winners 36-12. Guildford had beaten Farnham 21-0 in the earlier group game.
On Saturday afternoon Farnham men’s first team took on Battersea Ironsides at Monkton Lane in the quarter-finals of the Papa Johns Community Cup.
The Ironsides kicked off from the Town End with a meaningful breeze behind them and, underfoot, a good, firm pitch given the recent damp weather.
Farnham started slowly, and in the initial exchanges the team relied on its tried and tested defence as it was pinned against its line. However, that defence held and a turnover on the line allowed Tobias Trafford to hack the ball out of trouble and set up the Black and Whites to rumble forward.
Harry West at scrum-half pushed the pack forward with slick passing and effective box kicks. Props Jemi Akin Olugbade and Marco Azevedo made strong carries as first receivers. Together with hooker Ben Brown, they assured Farnham their scrum ball and, with the support of Harrison Horner and Tom Dullage in the row, made life difficult for the Irons on their put in, winning a couple of key scrum turnovers.
Jonny Vincent at number eight put in a stand-out performance in defence and on the charge. The experience of Toby Comley combined with the youthful exuberance of Jack Bemelmans to be a nuisance and a threat on the flanks.
In the 25th minute winger Max Williams came off for treatment and Sam Woodhams was on from the bench at prop. Utility player Olugbade shifted from prop to his career position at centre and Reece Stennett shuffled out to the wing. As the game wore on Jack Haylett and Archie Cleeve came off the bench to give respite to injured or wearied players.
Fizzing passes from Ollie Brown at fly half gave the backs plenty of front foot ball with which to attack the Ironsides’ line. Centres Toby Salmon and Stennett punched holes while Trafford and Williams skipped and sped on their respective wings. Rhys Bassett at full back was secure under the high ball and more than once joined the attack to create some panic in the Ironsides defence.
The game was a pulsating, ding-dong battle with no quarter given or taken. While both sides would make ground, both defences ruled the roost.
Therefore the skippers were eager to take what points they could, with Farnham edging the exchange of penalties two to one. Salmon was unerringly accurate. The score remained at 6-3 until the last seconds of the first half when Vincent launched himself from the base of a Farnham scrum 15 metres out, brushed the defence aside and piled over. Salmon’s conversion was good.
The Black and Whites must have taken their half-time oranges with some confidence given the 13-3 scoreline, the fact Battersea had rarely visited the home 22 and that the breeze was now in their favour.
Salmon launched the second half with a huge – and accurate – restart kick that won Farnham the throw-in deep inside Battersea’s 22. The team was unable to capitalise on this excellent field position and it was the Ironsides who broke out through their mercurial number 14, who released their number seven into space and over the line under the posts to make it 13-10 after five minutes of the half.
The Ironsides’ blood was up and cheered on by a large contingent of travelling support they marched the restart back to the Farnham line.
The home side’s defence did its work with a brilliant turnover on the line, but this was to no avail as the Ironsides flooded back from the clearance kick to power over and put their noses in front. The conversion was missed, but the visitors led 15-13.
The Ironsides sniffed a win and powered forward from the restart. Stennett was called upon to pull off a try-saving tackle, but Farnham were pinged for not rolling away at the tackle in front of the posts and the Ironsides took the three points to lead 18-13.
With well-drilled defences doing their job, it took individual brilliance to break the deadlock.
Salmon was first – and second – to strike. He broke the line and released Trafford, who sped in from 40 metres out to dot down at arm’s length with the cover tackler clinging to his ankles. The conversion was missed but the scores were tied at 18-18. Salmon’s second break was a classic chip over the onrushing defence to gather a kind bounce and scamper in. He converted his try and Farnham led 25-18.
From the restart, the Black and Whites brought the ball back in hand – but were perhaps just a little too frantic in their attempt to seal the game.
The ball was spilt and Battersea’s number 15 – a thorn in Farnham’s side all game – broke out to sprint 50 metres and score under the posts. The conversion was good, and the scores were level at 25-25.
The referee had informed the players that in the event of a tie at the end of 80 minutes, the away team would claim the victory. Therefore, the Ironsides needed to just play out the last minute from the restart until the clock ran down, and then their number ten joyously hoofed the ball out.
There was some controversy as to how the result of the game was called, but the first law of rugby is the referee is the sole judge of fact and of law during a match. So, Farnham must take the result on the chin, hold their heads up and look forward to next season with some exciting new talent coming through the ranks.