Farnham 26, Haywards Heath 22: Heath narrowly lose out to tough Farnham opposition

Heath forwards competed strongly in a ding dong battle against Farnham RFC. Picture by Julian Frost
Heath forwards competed strongly in a ding dong battle against Farnham RFC. Picture by Julian Frost

The first round of the RFU Senior Vase saw Heath travel to Farnham, a side brimming with confidence after five bonus point league wins to start their season putting them top of London 3 South West.

The game turned out to be a good battle of will and was a testament to the skill and fitness levels of both squads. his Sharing Buttons

With a referee under review and a swirling wind, this was going to be a test for both sides. As kick off approached the crowd swelled to league game proportions. Heath fielded a big mobile pack – Farnham’s Miller and Shotton in the row were taller and slighter than the Williams boys and the Heath back row of Salisbury, Main and Bell were determined to battle with Dan Williams, Buster Bond and Pete Daly. The scene was set. After some sparring, Farnham were awarded a penalty. Toby Salmon kicked to the corner and at the resulting line out Jonny Davidson was inch perfect to Daly and Farnham’s driving maul made a yard or two and then released Toby Salmon who put James Corlett in the smallest of gaps yet with a ghosting run and shrugged off tackles, he was over. 5-0 and a poor miss with the extras from skipper Mike Salmon, but not the start Heath wanted.

Farnham were enjoying the wind at their backs and drove straight into Heath’s 22. Heath’s number 9 Menefy was hot on the tail of Farnham’s scrum half who was orchestrating their every move. After a massive Farnham scrum, Brown released Toby Salmon and following quality work through the backs Farnham were in for their second try wide out. Difficult but successful extras for skipper Mike Salmon put Farnham ahead, 12-0.

But Heath had come to battle and prompted by their experienced half backs Menefy and Kerins they began to probe into the Farnham territory making the home side surprisingly rattled and rushed. Heath were awarded a penalty and Kerins kicked to the five metre line and executed a training ground line out catch and drive that resulted in a try for Heath’s Salisbury plus the Kerins conversion - 12-7.

There was further frustration for Farnham and encouragement for Heath as continual trouble at the breakdown led to a Farnham yellow card just before half time. The temperature, pace and commitment of Heath was on the rise as they turned for the second half with a significant breeze behind them. Heath’s full back Best kicked a booming clearance 50-60 metres to pen back Farnham and the pressure told. A penalty was conceded by the home side and the score closed to 12-10 through Kerins’ trusty boot.

Farnham was stung into action as their captain Mike Salmon smashed through tackles to score both a try and the extras making the score 19-10 to Farnham. The home support began to think that Farnham had the edge. The Heath pack were frustrated and after a penalty at the line out, Heath lock Shotton was shown a yellow card. Farnham chose a scrum against the reduced Heath pack and drove for the line but were judged to have been stopped illegally, giving Farnham a penalty try plus 2 from Mike Salmon and taking the score to 26-10.

Farnham and the home support thought the game was over but Heath had other ideas. Five minutes remaining and back come Heath. A rolling attack of successive pick and drives with body angles optimum and Heath are over to close the gap. But a missed conversion by Kerins could prove costly as the score stood at 26-15.The clock was running down and Farnham were definitely on the back foot in their own 22. Heath scrum power and quick hands allowed Fotheringham a try followed by a successful conversion and the score crept ever-closer to 26-22. But Heath were running out of time with their late surge and the Farnham kick off was caught but taken into touch meaning the final whistle and a narrow win for an excellent Farnham side.

These were two evenly matched sides and the game was a testament to the skill and fitness levels of both squads. It was a good opportunity for Heath to measure themselves against opposition outside their league area and although disappointing to lose this cup game, the match showed Heath where their strengths and weaknesses lie and provided much confidence for the London 3 South East season ahead.

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