Farnham fell to a narrow 38-33 defeat against Jersey at Monkton Lane.
Marcus Lambert-Parsons was handed his Farnham first- team debut in the second row while Dan Sweeney – another academy graduate – awaited his on the bench.
Farnham had the breeze behind them for the first half and looked to continue this season’s fast starts. However, it was Jersey who started the better, using their heavy forwards to good effect.
Farnham repelled the initial Jersey charge and got their attack going with some good carries. Ben Jones controlled the game from fly-half and used the powerful Fin Anderson at centre on many occasions.
The first chance came when Jersey broke down the right wing, with the offload back inside not going to hand. The referee put this down to a deliberate knock-on by scrum-half Ollie Brown, who then spent ten minutes in the bin.
Jersey opted for the scrum at the penalty and powered over for the first score of the match, with number eight George Willmott dotting down and fly-half Aaron Penberthy accurate from the tee.
A man down, Farnham had to be smart and play out the time. A breakout from Toby Salmon got Farnham into Jersey’s 22 before Reece Stennett was stopped five metres out. The Jersey defence held Farnham out, but a simple penalty in front of the posts allowed Farnham to cut the deficit.
The Black and White attack started to flow, with backs Max Williams and Sam Thomas making good line breaks.
This was mixed in with strong carries in midfield from Matt Kouris and Jonny Vincent as the Jersey defence started to rattle. With no scrum-half on the pitch, Vincent picked from the base and found Jemi Akin-Olugbade charging on to the ball to slice through the defence and dot down for Farnham’s first try. The conversion was successful and Farnham led 10-7.
Back to 15 men, Farnham started to gain control of the game. However, it didn’t stay this way for long as Josh Watson was given ten minutes for pulling down a maul close to the try line. A few minutes later, Lambert-Parsons was also given ten minutes for what was deemed a cynical penalty. Farnham were now down to 13 on the pitch.
However, Jersey could not take advantage because of the home side’s well-drilled and resolute defence.
Back to 14 men, Farnham extended their lead to 13-7 with a penalty kick just outside the 22. Farnham then claimed the restart and broke down the left flank, with Thomas beating two defenders before being hauled down just before the 22.
It was then Jersey’s turn to receive a yellow card for repeat offences. Farnham kicked to the corner and set up a rolling maul. This was halted ten metres short but Brown found a rampaging Anderson who smashed through the defence to score his first try of the season. The conversion was successful and Farnham led 20-7.
Farnham were eager to hold out until half-time but a good play from Jersey saw centre Tom Bulfin crash through and score under the posts. The conversion was successful but Farnham still had their noses in front at half-time, 20-14.
With both teams back to the full 15, Farnham started the second half well. A well-worked lineout move saw Thomas break the line before offloading to Stennett, who slid into the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Jersey struck back with a strong set piece move that saw winger Jack Keogh break the line and offload to the centre to score in the corner. Jersey’s Penberthy had kicked well all day and nailed the touchline conversion to narrow the score to 25-21.
Once again Farnham didn’t help themselves, as Stennett got his timing wrong chasing a kick. He took the catcher out in the air and was sent to the bin for ten minutes.
Jersey were on the up and continued to make inroads through their loose forwards. A series of phases and a chip in behind saw Penberthy dot down and convert his own try.
Farnham now struggled to get hold of the ball. With most of the game played with one or two men missing, exhaustion set in.
Stennett returned to the pitch and Mike Mizzi came on for Toby Comley. Nathan Phillimore – who was a last-minute addition after Callum Jones broke his nose in the warm-up – came on for Anderson.
Jersey kicked well out of hand to pin Farnham back and pounced on any mistakes. They slowly crept towards the line until the ball was spun wide for Jersey’s Willmott to dot down in the corner for his second try. Another successful kick took the score to 35-25. Farnham academy graduate Sweeney replaced Akin-Olugbade for his first-team debut.
Farnham finally managed to get hold of the ball. A well-worked lineout allowed Stennett to break through before being dragged just short of the line. A series of tight carries crept Farnham closer before Sweeney dived for the line for a debut try. There was one score in it with six minutes left.
The accurate Penberthy put the game out of sight with a 50-metre penalty to take it to 38-30 with two minutes left. However, Farnham were awarded a penalty 25 metres out on the final play and, determined to secure the losing bonus point, Salmon stepped up to drill it through the posts.