The Men’s 1st came home from Kent with a welcome and deserved bonus-point win in Zoo Shield League 2 over mid-table rivals Westcombe Park, where they had lost 36-20 a year ago.
Playing down a significant slope in the first half in warm spring sunshine, Ealing started brightly and dominated the set pieces from the outset. From a penalty awarded after Westcombe Park collapsed a retreating scrum with 11 minutes on the clock, a long pass found full-back Steve Verma in space on the right wing, where he finished with aplomb, the conversion attempt narrowly missing. An easy penalty stroked over by fly-half Max McMinn put the visitors two scores ahead, and just one minute later the lead was stretched to 15 when centre Alex Kritikos dotted down under the posts. A rampaging run by second-row Sean Kennett, in his best game of the season, further increased the advantage.
While the hosts experienced problems in the set scrums, they did have a few powerful forwards, and on the half-hour mark their big No 8 nearly burst through and offloaded for a try under the posts, duly converted. With the break approaching, Ealing won a penalty deep in ‘Combe territory, kicked for touch and scored through hooker Charlie Bannister from the ensuing driven maul. Two further scores followed in quick succession, the hosts notching their second try when they turned defence into attack, collecting a chip ahead close to their own line and swiftly moving the ball out to the right wing, and Ealing responding immediately through a try by prolific wing Andre Adeleke, who was put into space by Verma and sped away to the try line unopposed.
With a steep slope to contend with in the second half, solid defence and clinical finishing when in try-scoring positions were called for, but while the first requirement was generally met, a drop in intensity and some wayward passes at key moments meant that they were unable to add to their half-time tally of 36 points. Westcombe Park themselves fashioned two tries in the last 20 minutes, the first thanks to an intercepted pass in the centre and the second scored by the scrum half, scampering over after a succession of penalties close to the Ealing line.
This Saturday, 18 March, sees the Men’s 1sts make the long trip to the Essex coast to play Southend, in a game re-arranged after being frozen off in January.