Farnham 22 : 21 Winchester RFC
The first half of Winchester’s season ended with another memorable one-point 22 – 21 defeat, away to Farnham. They took the losing bonus point, yet were so near to a much sought-after victory. The home team had four early opportunities and seized a bonus point win. Winchester lost the game as they conceded 3 trys in a torrid twenty minute rampage where Farnham took their chances and Winch were unable to convert pressure into points.
After being sacked in the first quarter, coughing up 15 points to a fast offloading game and the humiliation of a pushover try, Winch settled to the task although they were always chasing the game. The rout was halted as Winchester began to man up in defence and put together some controlled rugby that bought them territory and possession.
Tom Forster, always dangerous, had been thwarted on the line by the tackle of the season, pole axed into touch by fly half Toby Salmon, but he grabbed five points after Gareth Martin recycled ball to returning fly half Patch Cheshire, who committed the defence, before passing wide for Forster to score. Ollie Dunger’s conversion attempt drifted wide but the try brought respectability to Winchester’s efforts.
Farnham came back and the game became a contest with both sides well balanced. The scales shifted when Winchesters flanker Steve Walker was sent to the bin as the referee grew weary after a string of minor infringements. With one man down Winch were unable to defend a 5 metre lineout and Farnham duly drove over for a bonus point try.
Forty minutes where Winchester’s first up defence had been called into question, ended when Dunger struck a 40 metre penalty to send Winchester to the changing rooms only two scores adrift with some semblance of self belief.
In one of the best second half performances of the season, Winch will regret their early lack of finish, as they dominated in a thrilling fixture. Despite two more injuries that saw Captain Jim Beavan and the luckless Chris Searle’s return to play after two months recuperation scuppered, the forwards took control. The sun went down on Farnham’s efforts and they failed to score again.
Winchester are always a better team with Rob Rees and he provided an outstanding work rate to counter the opposition’s heavy forwards. A fifty metre run turned defence into attack forcing a penalty that Dunger struck for 3 points. He scored from both penalty attempts in the second half, taking Winch to within 8 points; transferring momentum to the away team.
If they had the impetus, they still lacked the clinical control that would have put the game to bed. In the open spaces basic errors frustrated the best backs moves of the day. With the width of the pitch in front of them, wings Forster and Charlie Preston couldn’t quite get clean ball.
The forwards, fitter and faster in the loose, were solid in the scrum but still uncertain in the lineout. A penalty awarded in Farnham’s red zone gave them the chance to scrummage and they made no mistake controlling the ball and driving for the line. Coach Martin at number 8 picked up to score from all of one metre. The metronomic boot of Dunger converted and Winch were within a point.
With the clock now Winchester’s biggest threat it was a rousing final five minutes. Farnham dug deep and kicked long. Winchester carried and pressed forward and perhaps the desperate desire to win worked against them as one pass too many went awry and the game was lost.
Club Chairman, Steve Barrow was left confident that Winch were playing near the level they need to be. “The differential between the league placings didn’t show in the game today; we had some great individual performances.” And with some players returning from injury, there was clearly a sense of composure building in the team.
The first half of the season has ended with 3 wins from 11 games. Injury and availability have played havoc with the promise of the pre-season; only Captain Jim Beavan and Matt Golding have played in every game. On the plus side 40 players have contributed; new young talent has been tested at senior level and on their day they have beaten a top four team. On the deficit, new combinations have frustrated continuity and the development of a winning team mentality. There is clearly some way to go yet and as Winch prepare to visit local rivals Andover, one place above them in the league, they would do well to recall the words of Richie McCaw “It’s not magic, it’s hard work!”
Try : Forster, Martin
Conv : Dunger
Penalties : Dunger x3
4 Tries, 1 Conversion
Winchester : A Lee, C Searle, J Beavan ©, M Golding, J Afandari, S Walker, R Rees, G Martin, G Mawhood, P Cheshire, C Preston, A Bayliss, J Tolan, T Forster, O Dunger
Replacements : T Williams, A Hiscock, J Edwards
Updated 01:13 - 11 Dec 2017 by derek Cheshire