Alex Lambe sees the home side come through the most thrilling of tests.
Farnham produced a dominant second half performance to overcome Eastleigh by 17-7 and put themselves in pole position in the London 3 South West title race.
The men from Monkton Lane scored all their points in the second half, having been 7-0 down at the interval.
A penalty try plus the boot of Toby Salmon gave Farnham a 10-7 lead, before Andy Naisbitt crashed over with three minutes left on the clock to secure the victory.
The win moves the Surrey side five points clear of their Hampshire rivals at the top of the table with six games remaining this season.
In the first-half it looked as if the nerves of the big occasion had got to the hosts.
They enjoyed plenty of possession and territory but were unable to make it count. Despite enjoying total dominance at scrum-time, they couldn’t make their power play tell.
Anything that Farnham tried, the Eastleigh defence muscled up to.
A host of turnovers and knock ons meant the hosts were unable to establish any sort of momentum.
The visitors could have led 6-0 after 27 minutes, but their kicker had missed with an earlier attempt and did the same with this one.
There were signs that Eastleigh looked dangerous, as they enjoyed a brief spell of possession soon after, but just like the visitors, the home side’s defence was up to task. It would take either a lapse in concentration or something special to unlock either defence.
Lapse in concentration
Thus, it was mental slip that provided the game’s first score. The Hampshire side, somewhat against the run of play, scored the game’s first try.
Hesitation in the Farnham defence allowed the ball to bounce. Eastleigh’s inside centre Tom Willoughby was the first to react to the bouncing ball, hacking it on, and hooker Stu Mason won the race to touch the ball down. The conversion was successful from Blackman and the visitors took a 7-0 lead into half-time.
Farnham looked like a completely different team in the second half.
Within three minutes of the restart fly-half Toby Salmon registered the home side’s first points of the afternoon with a penalty.
With momentum beginning to shift towards the hosts, they were finally able to make their dominance up front count.
A rolling maul towards the Eastleigh line was halted illegally by the visitors, which left the referee with no option but to award the penalty try and hand out a yellow card to one of the visiting props for collapsing the maul. Toby Salmon converted and Farnham took the lead for the first time in the game. The score read Farnham 10-7 Eastleigh after 48 minutes.
A game of fine margins
The home side were beginning to control proceedings, dictating the territory game well. Toby and Mike Salmon, playing at fly-half and outside centre respectively, were pivotal, as they put the away side under pressure with pin-point kicks out of hand. In a game of fine margins, any territory gain could prove vital.
Farnham had a chance to extend their lead with a penalty on 75 minutes, but Toby Salmon’s effort drifted wide.
However, this didn’t matter as the Surrey side sealed the all-important win over their promotion rivals with Naisbitt’s try, three minutes from time.
Number eight Pete Daly made a bust through the middle before laying the ball off to Naisbitt who crashed over for the match winning try. Toby Salmon converted to crown a memorable second half performance and send Farnham five points clear at the top of the table.
“It was there for the taking”
Despite going into the break 7-0 down, Farnham captain Mike Salmon reflected on how the team could back themselves to go out and do the job in the second half: “We gave away a random sort of try, sort of luck, went 7-0 down into a fairly strong wind after having a lot of possession.
“At half-time we just said it’s there for the taking, we’ve got a 15-point win, we’ve only conceded seven, we can back ourselves to get back and get into this game.”
Salmon believes that this victory will give the squad a massive confidence boost going into the last six games of the season: “It gives us a five-point gap on them, they didn’t get a bonus point from this, a losing one, so it gives us a five-point lead now despite only scoring two tries.
“The pressure is on them to play catch up, they’ve got to start winning games with four tries. We’ve got some tough games away, Cranleighans (Old Cranleighans) and Basingstoke for the end of the season. There’s definitely a massive confidence boost and it sends a message to anyone else who dares to come down to Farnham.”
“A strong team performance”
Despite a seven-point deficit at half-time, head coach Matthew Shields was positive about his side’s first half performance: “90% of the stuff we did in the first-half was fantastic, a little bit of accuracy in the red zone. If we kept onto the ball a little bit longer then we could have scored a couple of tries. Probably a few opportunities for that went begging.”
Shields was really pleased with the turnaround in the second-half: “I said to the boys going into the wind in the first-half it’s going to be a 15 or 20-point win and I was right in the second-half, we scored 17. We stuck to the processes that we do, our structure was really good, our front-five was fantastic. It was a really strong team performance.”
“It’s in our own hands”
Despite being five points ahead of their promotion rivals at top of the table Shields refused to get carried away: “It’s another game towards us getting promoted. There’s five points available maximum, we’ve come away with four points, it’s four more points ticked off, we’re top of the league now it’s in our own hands.
“Confidence wise we’re sky high anyway so if we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll be fine.”