Farnham continued their winning run with a narrow 17-14 victory at Beckenham in Regional 2 South East last Saturday afternoon.
Although Beckenham hold a relatively lowly spot in the league, this was never going to be an easy game given this division’s propensity to favour the home side.
Both teams had warmed up well in preparation for a game played in the cold. However, just three minutes in, the game was paused for some time because of an injury and Farnham prop Jules Joris (torn muscle) was replaced by Jemi Akin-Olugbade.
The game restarted and Ben Brown was quick to tidy up a loose ball, and passed to Stennett who broke through deep into the Beckenham 22.
In the defensive melee Beckenham knocked on and the set scrum formed just short of the posts. Farnham held strong in their scrum and the ball was spun from No10 Ben Jones to Toby Salmon at centre.
Salmon cut a lovely line through the Beckenham defence and dotted down between the posts. He successfully converted and the faithful supporters – who were barely settled on the touchline – cheered the 7-0 scoreline.
The game ebbed and flowed until Farnham won a scrum penalty on the halfway line. Toby Salmon kicked for the corner and from the lineout another defensive melee earned Farnham a five-metre attacking scrum.
No8 Oscar Henderson picked from the base and surged for the line. Held, he popped the ball to second rower Tom Dullage to complete the surge and score. Salmon was successful from the tee and Farnham led 14-0.
Beckenham came blazing back and from making the try at one end, Henderson was called upon to do heroic work on his own try line.
A high tackle penalty gave Beckenham the chance to score, with the full back Bosch hitting the line at pace with the try line begging – only to knock on.
The game continued with eye-catching performances from Dullage and scrum half Ollie Brown, who kept the ball deep in the Beckenham half.
However, the Beckenham defence held strong and put paid to a number of Farnham chances.
Props of a certain vintage struggle in the cold, and Akin-Olugbade followed Joris to the touchline, also with a leg injury. Matt Chapman came on and the replacement bench – with only three allowed at this level – looked sparse.
The game restarted with Toby Salmon going for the corner with a penalty kick. This time Beckenham disrupted the catch and drive and cleared the ball back to the halfway line. Farnham tried hard to run it back into the Beckenham 22, but their defence had definitely stiffened since the opening exchanges.
The half concluded with Farnham again putting pressure on Beckenham at the set scrum, allowing a fresh attack, but this came to nothing.
A superb restart to the second 40 by Toby Salmon put Beckenham under pressure deep in their half, but the hosts’ half-time talk must have had some spice to it. They trucked the ball back up to halfway from where they released Bosch – who, fully recovered from the ignominy of the earlier knock on, sprinted 50 yards to score under the posts and make it 14-7.
Farnham, however, retained the territorial advantage and before long earned a penalty opportunity in front of the posts which Toby Salmon took to make it a two-score lead at 17-7.
Beckenham came straight back into the game and split a now tiring Farnham defence to allow Jordan, their number 11, to score out wide. The home support soon had something else to cheer as the difficult conversion bounced off the upright and over the bar to make the score 17-14.
The match now settled into midfield with both defences efficiently thwarting any threat.
Those who enjoy watching the set scrummage were well entertained as both sides were guilty of trying that little bit too hard and so the knock-on became a common infringement. Both sides were wearied by the constant battering of a game in which no quarter was asked or given and scoring chances were few and far between.
With minutes left in the game, Beckenham’s full back caught a clearance kick and offloaded to his support runner on the halfway line. However, a committed Henderson tackled the full back late and a yellow card was shown by the unsighted referee to second rower Tom Dullage.
The final few minutes dragged by for the travelling support and the players – not least Toby Comley, who was eager to celebrate his 199th league game for Farnham with a win. But with no further score, the final whistle blew.
The hospitable home crowd did not seem too disheartened by the loss of a game as exciting and full-on as they had just witnessed. As one Beckenham veteran remarked: “This is like the rugby we used to play.”
Farnham will hope to maintain the winning habit today (Saturday) when they entertain Chichester at Monkton Lane in the fixture postponed from December’s cold snap. Kick off is at 2.30pm.
Report: Andrew Mortimore