Farnham 39 Beckenham 15: AFTER the death of popular club president Geoff Bond, perhaps the emotion got to the first team – who took their time to get going despite being determined to put on a show.
The results show that any team in this league can upset the other on their day, no matter their position.
As well illustrated by the opening sparring, tenth-placed Beckenham had made the trip from south-east London to play.
On receiving the kick-off, Farnham started brightly enough by putting in the phases with the ball zipped left and right by scrum half Ollie Brown, who had a very good game.
Brown caused panic in the Beckenham defence with a tap-and-go penalty that took the Farnham attackers deep into the Beckenham 22. However, the charging Marco Azevedo was isolated and the referee awarded the penalty for not releasing.
The young referee had made the long trip from Yorkshire on an exchange visit. Being assessed, he was accurate and even-handed throughout – although his rigid interpretation of the laws may have interrupted the flow of the game from time to time.
And so the first ten minutes comprised attack met by fast defence and then, after a handful of phases, the game halted by the shrill blast of the whistle for a misdemeanour at the breakdown.
On 15 minutes Beckenham cleared deep into the Farnham 22 where, in a repeat from previous games, the home side’s ambition to run the ball out was thwarted by a good chase and strong work over the ball. The penalty in front was taken with alacrity as they went 3-0 ahead.
The game resumed its pattern with neither side gaining clear advantage. On one occasion Beckenham took their penalty by launching a towering up-and-under into the Farnham 22, a tactic rarely seen in the modern game.
It was effective in that Farnham knocked on and Beckenham had an attacking scrum in a dangerous position.
They won their ball, but it was messy as the Farnham pack – led by the front row of Marco Azevedo, Jules Joris and the evergreen Jemi Akin-0lugbade – put the squeeze on. The attack petered out.
On 20 minutes Farnham produced a glimmer of what was to come. They disrupted a Beckenham lineout and the forwards broke out.
Joris on the charge found the considerable bulk of Harrison Horner who crashed through the tackle and off loaded to Jonny Vincent.
Beckenham were on the back foot and Brown released the backs. Jones to Salmon, who with a trademark jink opened the space for Reece Stennett at centre to crash over.
The shot at goal was missed but they led 5-3.
Beckenham hit back almost immediately with a training-ground move – off the top of the lineout, a long, accurate cut-out pass put their flankers on a looping run to split the Farnham defence.
The conversion fell short but the visitors still had their noses in front 8-5 after 30 minutes.
No quarter was shown by either side. First Farnham’s Aldwinkle was off for a head injury assessment and soon after a Beckenham player was laid out unconscious.
There was nothing malicious in either injury – just two motivated sides playing fast and furious rugby.
Observing the protocol for players who receive a serious head injury, the Beckenham player remained on the pitch until the ambulance duly arrived.
As the Vets had just concluded their game, the match was restarted on the second pitch.
Beckenham attacked from the resumption, but a timely interception by winger Sam Thomas turned defence into attack in an instant.
Beckenham infringed and Salmon launched the penalty to the Beckenham 22, but the Farnham throw was not straight.
Having been put under the cosh at the set-piece scrum, Beckenham opted for the line-out, allowing Ben Adams to get up and turn it over.
It was Brown to Salmon who attacked the space at the fringe and off-loaded to the supporting Horner, who barrelled over for the try in front.
The conversion was good so Farnham led 12-8 at half-time – and as the scoreboard highlighted, there was not much between the teams.
But that try was the fillip the Farnham boys needed – together with a word or two from coach Ali Chisholm.
Within minutes of the restart, they had a penalty in from of the posts and Salmon made no mistake to make it 15-8.
Michael Salmon came on at centre for Reece Stennett, who had picked up a rib injury in the first half. He combined skilfully with brother Toby to break down the left wing, the latter going over for the try out wide which he failed to convert.
Farnham led 20-8 but back come Beckenham – but once again Sam Thomas made a timely interception and the home side were on the front foot again.
An outrageous side-step from second row forward Ben Adams provided the space for his team-mates to surge into the Beckenham 22.
Again the attack was halted illegally, and Salmon pinged the ball into the corner.
There was a moment’s concern when Beckenham intercepted, but the ball was soon retrieved and after some sharp interplay between backs and forwards, Jonny Vincent burst over.
The try was converted and at last Farnham were almost out of sight, leading 25-8.
Perhaps lulled by the scoreboard, the hosts’ foot came off the gas and Beckenham threatened, but the Farnham D did enough to keep them out.
It took a moment of brilliance from skipper Toby Salmon to reignite the game.
He intercepted a Beckenham pass on the halfway line and after a lung-busting 50-metre dash to evade pursuers and the cover defence, he crashed over out wide.
The conversion attempt shaved the wrong side of the post, but the scoreboard read a very agreeable 32-8.
No10 Ben Jones – another player on song on the day – returned the restart with a long, raking kick into their 22 and beyond the Beckenham back three.
The Beckenham winger touched the ball on its way to the line.
There was a taste of champagne to this Farnham attack as the ball from the lineout fizzed across the back line, giving Sam Thomas space to attack.
He brought the ball back into midfield where a couple of phases from the forwards allowed Brown to pop the ball up to Jones at close range for his well-deserved try.
Salmon was accurate from the tee and Farnham led 39-8.
A lapse of defensive concentration by the home team allowed Beckenham to score a try that was hurriedly converted by a drop goal.
At 39-15 it would be unjust to call that score a “consolation” as Beckenham never gave an inch for the 80 minutes – and all their players were a credit to their club. They were simply outfought and outclassed on the day.
Farnham marched back up the field from the restart and looked set to score again, but the attacking lineout went awry, and the ref blew the final whistle.
This Saturday Farnham travel to Kent once more, this time to take on Old Colfeians who are currently mid-table, but managed a creditable 23-23 draw at high-flyers Old Reigatians on Saturday.
It will be another test on the road for the Farnham boys (2.30pm).