BASINGSTOKE 5, FARNHAM 61
FARNHAM played some Barbarian-style rugby in their final league fixture as they gear up for this weekend’s National RFU Vase semi-final against Saltash.
The London 3 South-West champions are one win from an appearance at Twickenham and it will be the biggest game in the club’s short history when they meet Saltash at Monkton Lane on Saturday.
The winners will meet either Droitwich or Tarleton, who play the other semi-final, at Twickenham on Saturday, May 6.
Places in the Vase side were at stake and Farnham rested star players Toby Salmon and Pete Daly, although coach Jamie Salmon had stressed that the game was no ‘walk in the park’. Everyone was playing for their place and the emphatic scoreline emphasised Farnham’s strength in depth.
With the temperature nudging 21C at Basingstoke’s Pack Lane ground, regular drink breaks were agreed, but Farnham were hot from the start and scored first, despite Toby Comley picking up an early yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.
The champions are made of stern stuff. The penalty was fielded by Ben Jones, yards were gained as Oli Brown barked out the orders and Gabe Hills went in for the opening try.
Basingstoke countered with a series of sweeping attacks, but spilled pass after pass. Then, with Comley back in the fray, Andy Naisbitt made a charge and skipper Mike Salmon scored under the posts, converting his own try.
No respite now for Basingstoke. Under the cosh, they conceded another penalty. From the line-out, Andy Coutts initiated a swift attack and Jemi Akin-Olagbade supplied a perfectly-timed pass to Comley who powered over. Salmon’s conversion stretched the lead to 19-0.
With the scrums becoming almost too one-sided, there was no let-up in the pressure. Full-back Hills, easing back to his best form, twinkle-toed his way over from the 22 and with the captain’s conversion, Farnham turned round with a 26-0 lead.
Farnham rung the changes and turned to the young tyros: Comley and Brown off, Jordan Frost and Alex Chalker on.
Basingstoke wilted in the heat and Farnham exploited the open spaces with exuberant running rugby.
Fast hands through both backs and forwards stretched the home side again and Naisbitt crunched through a gap to score from three metres out. Simple kick for Salmon and it was 33-0.
It was turning into a romp and Jones touched down under the sticks for another converted try.
But another expansive Farnham move ended in a knock-on and Basingstoke took advantage to score their consolation try, winger Brent Evans running 80 metres for the five points.
Back came Farnham. Heavyweight Reece Stennet was held, but Dan Williams was on hand to gain 40 metres and everywhere-man Comley finished off.
If it had been boxing, the referee would have stopped the fight by now, but Basingstoke continued to take punishment. Ed Weeks was at the forefront of another blistering attack and the ageless Akin-Olagbade touched down to leave another simple conversion.
The scrums had been uncontested for most of the second half – never satisfactory, but prop health and safety is paramount. Easy ball and the denouement was a superb Mike Salmon hold and pop pass to put Weeks in under the posts. Conversion for the provider and it finished 61-5. This against a side who finish fifth in the division.
And so it was a much-changed Farnham squad that put the final touch to a tremendous season. Over a 1,000 points scored in 22 league matches.
President’s Podium Points: Daniel Williams 3, Comley 2, Mike Salmon 1.
* Sat, April 15 – Farnham v?Saltash (RFU Senior Vase semi-final), ko 2.30pm at Monkton Lane.