Old Colfeians 18 Farnham 10: When the final kick of the game sailed over the Farnham posts to deny the Horns Ground visitors a losing bonus point, there was a sense the Black and Whites were a bit hard done by.
However, as sadly missed president Geoff Bond would have said: “The scoreboard never lies. No excuses!”
Nevertheless, the long trip to Old Colfeians had not been in vain as the Farnham boys proved they could hold their own against a physically larger pack – and for much of the game, they kept a large, vociferous and hotly-partisan crowd quiet.
The first 50 minutes were particularly good for Farnham, although things did not start well.
Colfeians kicked off with a crossfield breeze slightly in their favour. After five minutes of open and even sparring, the first set scrum was called.
Unprepared for the bulk in the Colfeians pack, Farnham were shoved backward and while the Black and White back row stayed down, their Colfeian counterparts were up and running hard at the now outnumbered Farnham defence. The ball was dotted down under the posts and the conversion secured, as they went 7-0 ahead.
Farnham won the restart and were soon pressing hard into the Colfeian 22, and stayed there for some time without penetrating their committed defence.
The scrum was stabilised by Jemi Akin Olugbade, Jules Joris and Marco Azevedo in the front row, ably supported by Horner and Chapman in the second.
Flankers Comley and Huckle harried the fringes while Ben Adams secured the base at 8.
Indeed, on a few occasions the Colfeian scrum was on the back foot, proving technique can overcome bulk.
The backs looked good, too. Ollie Brown at scrum half busied to keep the momentum going. Ben Jones at 10 had an assured game, while at centre the Salmon brothers Mike and Toby ran straight and hard – the former with trademark high knees and sharp elbows making for a difficult target to tackle.
Mike was off the bench early because of an injury to Sam Thomas that moved Stennett out to the wing.
Out wide, Stennett and Chalker did not see much of the ball in enough space to run as, once again, the defence was up quickly. It will come as no surprise to learn that late in the game Stennett pulled off yet another stunning try-saving tackle.
At full-back, Phillimore was assured under the high ball and often joined the attacking line, and with telling effect.
Farnham continued to press and some excellent attacking phases were halted either by the attacker being bundled into touch or, as happened with both sides, the greasy ball was spilled.
On 20 minutes another series of “soft-on-the-eye” Farnham moves caught Old Colfeians off-side and Toby Salmon put Farnham on the scoreboard at 7-3.
The conditions and the commitment from both sides gave the ref little option but to blow for either scrum or penalty on regular occasions.
He had a good game and was overheard advising both sides to perhaps reduce the tempo and let the game flow.
Errors at the lineout cost Farnham some good attacking positions, while on a couple of occasions Old Colfeians were caught way offside – once chasing a kick and another coming up too quickly at the lineout. Both times, everyone – bar the players, obviously – could hear the ref bellow “No! No! No!”
On a relatively rare occasion in the first half, Old Colfeians made it into the Farnham half. The defenders transgressed allowing the OC No10 to convert a penalty from a good distance out to edge 10-3 ahead.
There remained nothing between the teams as they broke for half-time oranges.
Farnham burst out of the traps in the second half. Soon after the back and forth from Farnham’s restart, OC’s were illegal at the breakdown. Toby Salmon pinged the penalty to the corner.
The lineout was immaculate and the maul was set. It collapsed before reaching the line, so the forwards pounded the line to suck in the defence. With perfect timing Brown released the backs and Phillimore was up in the line to burst through and, after a bit of a juggle with the greasy ball, dotted down.
Salmon’s conversion was good and the game was tied at 10-10.
Momentum seemed to be with the visitors but Ben Adams picked up a knock and left the field with Comley to No8. Huckle also went off injured, so Stennett moved to the flank and Tim Salmon joined his brothers in midfield – to make a couple of incisive breaks enabled by his fierce trademark hand off.
Farnham showed they had the will and technique to see off the big Old Colfeian pack, but as the game progressed that stamina-sapping effort took its toll.
No matter whose put in, OCs won the set scrums and the mauls from the lineout were indefensible – as was proved by OC’s other, unconverted, try.
That final kick of the game was from a penalty earned by OCs mercilessly shoving the Farnham pack off the ball.
In between times, Farnham did have their chances – one set up from an outrageous goal-line dropout by Toby Salmon that earned Farnham a lineout deep in the OC 22.
Another came from Ollie Brown’s tap-and-go penalty that had the OC defence at sixes and sevens and provided apprentice prop Olugbade the space to show that most of his long rugby career had been spent in the backs.
Perhaps more so than these, and other attacking chances, Farnham’s glory was in their defence.
The final score of 18-10 might have looked a lot worse had it not been for the boys’ never-say-die attitude.
As a result, the travelling support could leave The Horns ground with their heads held high.
This Saturday sees a busy schedule at Farnham. The day starts early as all are invited to enjoy a hearty breakfast to watch the Red Roses go for World Cup glory against the Black Ferns.
The kick-off is at 6.30am with doors opening at 6am and places can be booked on the club’s social media sites.
Farnham under-13s kick off at 1pm as a curtain raiser to the first XV clash with mid-table side Dartfordians (2.30pm) – with a full schedule of autumn international rugby to enjoy on the big screens.