After agonisingly falling two points short after a stirring comeback in the away fixture at the Athletic Ground just a few weeks ago, the Men’s 1sts had a chance for revenge against a team tucked just above them in Zoo Shield Division 3, and in a tough physical encounter eventually came out on top in one of their best performances of the season.
On a cold March day, the game began with an intensity that was maintained for the full 80 minutes, with Ealing looking slightly the stronger despite playing against the stiff breeze. With just five minutes on the clock, the home pack drove close to the line and scrum-half Chico U’Chong showed once again how dangerous he is at close quarters by darting over, narrowly failing to add the extras himself. Mid-way through the half it was Ealing’s turn to come under pressure, and an easy penalty from the 22 metre line reduced the deficit to 5-3. The home side turned the screw in the set scrums but were less comfortable in the line outs, and Richmond moved into a one-point lead with a second penalty on 25 minutesn, reaching the interval one point and one man to the good due to a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.
Ealing made light of being down to 14 men as the second period got under way and regained the lead with a well-struck penalty by U’Chong, awarded for offside at the breakdown after a strong attack down the left by full-back Steve Verma. With 15 minutes to go the green-and-whites moved two scores ahead. After Rashan Samms had a try disallowed for a forward pass, the Ealing pack disrupted the subsequent 5-metre scrum, and centre Luca Townshend added to his try tally with a pacey finish, U’Chong adding the conversion.
The battle of attrition continued in a game that was a credit to the competitive Zoo Shield League 3, and Richmond ensured a tense end by reducing the gap to four with close-range try.
The win against their local rivals bolsters Ealing’s position in the top four with three games to go. The next league fixture is on 21 March at home to Reigatians, who inflicted a surprise defeat on them in the autumn to bring a long unbeaten run to an end.
This week also sees the Men’s 1sts in mid-week action in the semi-final of the North-West Middlesex Cup against Old Merchant Taylors under the Vallis Way floodlights on Wednesday 18 March, with a kick-off time of 7.45 pm. We hope to see a large crowd to cheer the cup holders on to another final.