The Newbury Blues were defeated by visitors Farnham RFC 24:47 in a first-time meeting at Monk’s Lane. The visitors deserved their win – but the Blues glorious second-half fightback was a stunning turn-around.
The first half belonged to Farnham. Winger Max Williams put 5 points on the board in the first five minutes but Captain Toby Salmon did most of the damage, with two tries, four conversions and a penalty before the half-time whistle, when the score stood at 0:36. The Blues just didn’t have a response to their strength, speed and imagination.
Supporters had expected a tough challenge – Farnham are a well-resourced club, with paid players – but, after two convincing early-season wins for the Blues, this was worse than anyone had imagined.
What happened next was absolutely thrilling! Within minutes of the restart, Kris Ford had surged over the line with a storming try. There followed two more tries from Jamie Futcher and another from Josh Winfield, two converted by the in-form Dan Thorne (celebrating his 251st cap for the Blues) and, after a tricky training week, putting in a true captain’s performance.
It was half an hour, when Kris Ford’s physicality made a big difference and Michael Klichowicz relentlessly tackled well, before Farnham could find an answer and reasserted themselves in the last 10 minutes for another try and a couple of penalties.
What had coach James McAvoy said in the break? The modern coach doesn’t do “hairdryer”. Instead, he invited his team to reflect and reminded them that it would take 15 players to turn it around. With a bunch of injuries, the bench was empty and players had to withstand the full 80 minutes. Hats off to 18-year-old Luke Boyt in his first senior team game. McAvoy was rightly proud of the achievement to take a bonus point for the four tries and survive.
The Blues are away on Saturday 23rd September at Chichester and play again at home on Saturday 30th September to face Guildford – another strong team. Come on you Blues!
Photo by kind permission of Peter Branch