Ealing Trailfinders overcame a stubborn Henley Hawks side at Vallis Way on Saturday, in a game that many will remember for an incident in the 27th minute, which saw referee Paul Kimber send the Hawks number 8 Matt Payne off for an apparent stamping offence to Ealing’s own three try scoring wing Phil Chesters.
Ealing were made to work all the way for this victory, and indeed it will keep them in good stead for next week’s clash at the Athletic Ground against neighbours Richmond, who had a great day at the office with a demolition of Lydney by 59 points to 9.
The game was very physical, and it was something that was not unexpected by the home team. Ealing’s Director of Rugby, Mike Cudmore had prepared his team well, he said "Henley are a physical team and we knew that we had to not only match them in this area but produce a performance that controlled our possession and caused them problems when they had the ball and I felt we did this for most of the game".
The opening salvos from each sides were pretty even. Henley’s full back James Combden opened the visitors account on two minutes, Ealing replied with two penalties of their own from the dead eyed Neil Hallett after 15 and 21 minutes. With the home side in the ascendancy in terms of territory, and the majority of scrums going the home sides way, the visitors hooker Andy Dalgleish was sent to the sin bin by Mr Kimber for pulling down the maul.
Despte being ahead, Ealing were lacking their usual fluidity, and were struggling to find their stride. The Hawks took advantage of this, and following some decent approach work it was open side Adam Holloway who was put in to cross the home sides try line. Combden adding the conversion on 27 minutes, saw the visitors 10-7 ahead.
Then the incident that Henley felt was game defining occurred. Following a ruck on the left hand side of the pitch, wing Phil Chesters went down to collect a loose ball, from the ensuing ruck, and after consultation with his linesman, referee Mr Kimber felt that that there had been intentional stamping by Henley’s Matt Payne.
Ealing’s response was almost immediate as flanker Karl Gibson took advantage, and from the ensuing lineout went over for a converted try on 35 minutes to stretch their lead out to 13-10. Henley responded with a well taken long range penalty from full back James Combden on 38 minutes, but it was the league’s top try scorer that took the Vallis Way side into a half time lead, when on the stroke of half time, Ealing moved the ball wide and fly half Ben Ward off loaded to Chesters who turned on the afterburners and scored out wide. Neil Hallett converted and Ealing went into halftime with a 20-13 lead.
Hallett extended the lead with two penalties as Henley infringed again after the break. Combden responded with a penalty for the Hawks but Ealing were in the ascendancy, and their game management begin to show. The forwards were dominating Henley now, as the visitors began to look ragged in defence and the home side looked to move the ball searching for more points.
Hallett’s 65th minute penalty took the lead out to 29-16, and it was left to wing Phil Chester’s two tries in a hectic final five minutes. His first on 76 minutes saw him dart up the left hand side, leaving the defence for dead. Two minutes later Chesters was the grateful recipient of a wonderful cross field kick from skipper Ben Ward, the speedy wing gathered the ball to touch down in the corner. Hallett ended the day with a perfect touchline conversion and Ealing sealed a hard fought win ahead of next week’s local derby with Richmond.
Man of the match Phil Chesters said afterwards, “Having the week off due to the Dings game being postponed meant the boys had to wait a little longer to rectify some of the areas we talked about improving after the Canterbury score line."
He continued "We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to do that against a side such as Henley, as we knew from last year’s results and their form this year so far. Training was based around stopping them in key areas and just doing what we do well to a high level for 80mins."
"Everyone was pleased with the way in which we managed the game second half and closed off the game, and to get a bonus point running up to Richmond next week was very pleasing ".
Ealing visit the Athletic Ground to face Richmond for a 3 pm kick off next Saturday.
15 – Neil Hallett, 14 – Owen Bruynseels, 13 – Pete Hodgkinson, 12 – Joe Price, 11 – Phil Chesters, 10 – Ben Ward (C) 9 – Morgan Thompson, 1- Rob Buchanan, 2 – Jon Moyce, 3 – Steve Neville, 4 – Ryan Gregory, 5 – Matt Evans, 6 – Blair Morris, 7 – Karl Gibson, 8 – Anders Nilsson
16 – Lewis Brown, 17 – Sonny Kuwango, 18 – Tyler Edwards, 19 – Jay king, 20 – Sam Wardingley