A substantial crowd gathered at Castle Road for Salisbury’s penultimate league match against Farnham, a side who had convincingly beaten the hosts in December.

Salisbury needed a bonus point win to reduce their chances of relegation but it wasn’t to be.

Despite leading 8-7 at half time, Salisbury were unable to secure the win, eventually losing 11-28.

Setting aside the result this was an entertaining match in which both sides were prepared to make the most of the dry conditions and move the ball wide and take risks.

It was Salisbury that looked the more threatening in the first quarter with back-rowers Scott Nicol, Luke Newton and James Kennedy combining well, often breaking menacingly from the tail of the lineout to create midfield momentum.

This and a dominant scrum gave Salisbury the edge and the lead when Farnham were penalised at a scrum on 12 minutes. Tom Tully kicked the penalty for a thee point lead.

Farnham responded positively and were difficult to contain. It took committed tackling from the hosts to check their progress and prevent half breaks from becoming anything more.

Salisbury found themselves on the front foot once more on 25 minutes. Hooker Bobby Brown clattered into the visitors’ defence after an attacking lineout but was held up. Farnham cleared only for Salisbury to gather and run the ball back but they squandered a three-on-one overlap. Fortunately, they made amends when Tully quickly took a penalty for Theo Andre-Browning to score an unconverted try in the 25th minute.

Farnham had the best of the second quarter. Cheap penalties cost the hosts field position and the visitors were able to score a converted try following an attacking lineout on 26 minutes. With the score at 8-7, matters worsened from Salisbury when they conceded a yellow card after enduring a period of defensive pressure.

Farnham took the lead early in the second half. The hosts were penalised at a ruck, Farnham kicked to corner and scored from the subsequent lineout but at 8-14, Salisbury were determined to strike back. A well-executed backs move enabled Will Murley to scythe through the visitors’ misaligned defence. Farnham were then penalised at the next ruck; Tully took the points and Salisbury closed the gap to 11-14 in the 50th minute.

Salisbury continued to play with ambition. However, their overeagerness for points often resulted in some wayward kicking which easily surrendered possession or mistimed passes. Farnham were gifted their third converted try from an interception on 53 minutes.

With the scoreline at 11 – 21, Kennedy was forced to leave the field injured which didn’t help Salisbury’s cause but to their credit they regrouped. Their defiant defence absorbed significant periods of pressure and backs Eremasi Ranatora, Joe Paden and Andre-Browning continued stress the Farnham defence whenever in possession. It was never quite enough and the visitors had the last word. After winning a series of rucks and spinning the ball wide, the visitors scored their fourth try on 75 minutes to win 11-28.

Salisbury are now 13 points behind 10th place Newbury Blues. It is therefore numerically impossible to catch them with one league fixture remaining. Despite their position, Recent performances have provided much to be positive about. Whatever league Salisbury find themselves in next season they have much to build on.

Following a break at Easter, Salisbury will travel to Chichester for their final league match on April 6.