Despite bitterly cold and windy conditions, use of the 3G pitch enabled the Men’s 1sts and their rivals from across the river to produce a match of high quality, with several outstanding performances. Ealing bounced back from last week’s narrow defeat at Richmond to register their sixth league victory of the season and consolidate their position in the top half of the table with a bonus point.
Second-row Sean Kennett pulled up with a torn hamstring in the warm-up, necessitating some positional changes in the pack, which was helped by a delayed start due to the late arrival of some of the Park players. Despite the disruption, the home pack held the ascendancy in the early set pieces, although it was the visitors who enjoyed most of the territorial advantage in the opening 10 minutes. Wing George Bertolis finally raced out of defence leaving the Park defence scattered in his wake, and from the quickly recycled ball full-back Steve Verma opened the scoring with a try converted by scrum-half Chico U’Chong. While the lead came slightly against the run of play, Ealing began to dominate proceedings, and soon after narrowly missing with a penalty attempt U’Chong stretched the advantage by throwing a dummy and darting over the line. Despite further pressure by Ealing it was Park who scored next through their forwards. The home defence held firm against further Park attacks to leave the game delicately poised at half-time at 12-7.
Five minutes into the second period Park came close to registering a second try when they were held up on the line, but Ealing were able to relieve the pressure with a penalty for not releasing. Shortly afterwards second-row Charles Mansell nearly capped a fine performance with a try, but the award was overturned when the line judge (our own Victor Zelaya!) informed the referee that Park complaints that the ball had been dropped over the line were justified. From the ensuing scrum inside centre Alex Hazell collected a loose ball and carved his way through the defence to score under the posts, with U’Chong adding the extras.
Victory looked assured as the mid-way point of the second half approached when U’Chong took a quick tapped penalty close to the line and bagged his second try of the day. With 10 minutes to go second-row Harry Craig dived over a pile of bodies for a well-deserved try, before a late flourish by the visitors brought a score by their left wing.
With the 6 Nations kicking off this weekend, the Men’s 1st XV have a week’s rest before facing Old Actonians in the semi-final of the Middlesex Bowl.