Shire Hall finished the season on a high, with a thrilling final fixture win against Farnham Royal. Victory ensured a positive win/loss ratio (played 21, won 11, lost 10) and cemented themselves as worthy mid-table competitors. The gravitas of the last game of the season had not been lost on the Shire Hall team as they hosted visiting Farnham Royal. Farnham were one point ahead in the league table meaning it really was all to play for. The winner would finish the season 5th. History was on the side of Shire Hall though, having won the 2 previous meetings between the teams this season. Both close, physical encounters. The opening blows went firmly Farnham’s way. A strong wind favoured the visitors and their forwards utilised the short blindside to great effect. The Farnham ball-carriers rumbled along, well supported, and crashed over for 2 very similar tries in the first 10 minutes. 14-0 down. This sparked Shire Hall to shore up the blindside defence and mount a characterful comeback. Shire Hall were in no way deflated. Rich Clark had made 2 storming runs early in the game only to be denied a glorious try by some last-ditch defending. And it wasn’t long until the first Shire points of the day came. Rory Buckley made the most of a knock-on advantage to race up the field and score under the posts. 14-7 to Farnham Royal, 2 tries to 1. It wasn’t long until Shire were on Farnham’s try line again. Powerful line breaks had gained territory and after drawing in the Farnham defence with forward phases, the ball was spread left. Good hands along the whole back line led to winger Rhys Stewart to dot down in the corner. Simple rugby.
Half time 14-12. 2 tries a piece.
Shortly after the break, Rory made another break as Matt R, his fellow centre, drew in both opposite numbers. A dart downfield, evading the grasping arms of the Farnham defence meant another score under the posts. Shire Hall in front for the first time – 14-19. Great kicking from the Farnham 10 Thomas Boardman, and far too many Shire penalties led to a Farnham line-out deep in the Shire 22. A rolling maul drove over the try line, and Farnham had re-taken the lead. Shire Hall find themselves in the Farnham 22 after the restart, and are awarded a penalty . The kick is good, and it puts Shire Hall back into the lead. 22-21 to Shire. More Shire infringements lead to another penalty within kicking range of the Farnham fly half’s right peg. The kick is good, Farnham re-take the lead. 24-22 With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Shire Hall are awarded a penalty back down in the Farnham 22. Just off to the left, regular Shire Hall kicker, Rhys Stewart had gone off injured, so captain David Lloyd-Williams stepped up to launch Shire Hall into the lead once again. The kick sailed just wide. (Credit to Dave for stepping up as a previous winner of the Kicking Cup bottled it!) The last few minutes were a real arm wrestle, resulting in a now-or-never moment as Shire Hall were camped 5 metres from the Farnham line. Phase after phase were held out as the forwards shifted the ball left to right, setting the ball, recycling and going for the next phase. It seemed fitting to come down to power prop Matt Margot who’s had an excellent season, to steal the win as he barged over and managed to find a patch of grass amongst a jumble of limbs and body parts. Sam Watkins’ attempt to add a further two points just failed.
24-27, Shire Hall lead by 3.
A tense last few minutes saw Shire hall close out the game, bringing an end to a very enjoyable game.
Tries: Rory Buckley (2), Rhys Stewart, Matt Margot
Conversion: Rhys Stewart (2)
Penalty Goal: Rhys Stewart
Man Of The Match: Rory Buckley