London Scottish Highlanders 24 – 19 Ealing Trailfinders Academy
It was the archetypal game of two halves at The Athletic Ground on Saturday as a first half onslaught by the Exiles proved just enough to see London Scottish over the line in a bruising encounter.
There was always going to be ebb and flow in the match with the two sides adopted different approaches. London Scottish have dropped their academy side and now run a Performance Squad and looked to use those players to gain match practice. The Academy coaches looked to use the game to see all the players in a match environment and tried many new combinations in the first two periods of 20 mins. The disruption however did’nt warrant the rustiness that was apparent with poor defence and a lack of go forward striking.
London Scottish were well deserved leaders at 24-0 after 50 mins, two actions proved the catalyst for change, a big defensive play by prop forward Kadeem Collins gave the Trailfinders heart and a great 30m line break from back row forward Devon Smith followed by a deft offload to ever present scrum half Conor Segre got the boys on the scoreboard.
This signalled a change in the tide, the Academy began to play with heart and ambition. Excellent awareness and great use of the blindside put No 8 Zak Gregory over for the second try converted by U18 fly half Ciaran Poynter. A strong carry by flanker Alfie Hill, just returned from a summer playing in New Zealand with only 2 minutes remaining saw the conversion kick refused for the chance to score the winning try. Sadly a turnover gave Scottish the opportunity to kick the ball out of play to end the game and save the win.
Academy Director John Lacey said “On reflection we can be happy with our second half performance, we were playing our first game together with 10 players making their Ealing or Senior Academy debuts.
We remained true to our development ethos, Fly half Ciaran Poynter at 17 years old lived up to his promise from training, we also had prop forwards Harry Robbins and Akeem Eubank-Anderson in the second and back row in Q3 as they cant scrummage in the front row until they’re 18, they’ve worked as hard as anyone else in preseason and deserved a run.
Our final quarter was excellent, we showed energy and awareness, it got scrappy but we were certainly effective.
We’ll take some key points from here and look to sharpen up, its a short turn around before we play National 2 side Henley Hawks on Thursday, that’s going to be a huge test for the squad and we’re all really excited to see how the boys cope with what will be the biggest challenge many of them have faced in their rugby careers so far. Henley will be strong and well organised, if we could test them across parts game it would be great. If the boys have ambition to play at the higher echelons of the game, this is huge opportunity.”
Thursdays game is set for a 20:00 kick off at Dry Leas, Marlow Road, Henley RG9 2JA. It would make a massive difference to the lads to hear some Ealing support from the touch line.