Leagues are not won or lost in September, but more often than not as you reach the turn of the year, when pitches get heavy and injuries begin to take their toll, so a close bonus point win away at Combe will be viewed as a good result .
Ealing Trailfinders arrived at Goddington Dean for this first league meeting between the two clubs with a growing reputation. With Ealing in second place, and leaders Barking having a weekend off, this was an opportunity to close the gap between the two sides at the top.
Despite the final score of 24-28 to Ealing, and the 5 points in the bag, this was a game that saw the lead change hands on numerous occasions.
Westcombe Park stand off, Lee Audis started proceedings on six minutes with the first of his three drop goals, but Ealing Trailfinders swiftly hit back with a 10th minute try, coming from a good catch and drive from the lineout and a powerful drive by Ealing number 8 Guthrie Hall.
Combe replied with two more Audis drop goals on 16 and 24 minutes, Ben Ward replying with a penalty on 18 minutes.
A break by Westcombe’s centre Bowles took the homes side lead to 14-8 on 27 minutes, and it was left to Ealing skipper Jay King to restore the visitors lead on 33 minutes. Ealing once again tested the Combe line with a good catch and drive and King scored from the back of the resulting ruck.
Ben Ward added the 2 points to take a close 14-15 lead into half time.
Once again Audis and Ward swapped penalties on 43 and 49 minutes as both sides looked to up the ante after the break. It was Coombe who broke the deadlock with what the home crowd said was the try of the day, when Wescombe number 8, Gareth Inches crossed the visitors try line. Audis added the conversion to make the score 24-18 with just over twenty minutes remaining.
With Ealing now putting Combe under constant pressure in their own half , and they didn’t count on the leagues top try scorer, Phil Chesters and the returning Owen Bruynseels. The deadly pair proved to be the difference. Chester broke down the left wing to score his 15th try of the campaign on 59 minutes from a well executed scrum move, and it was left to his fellow wing Bruynseels to round off what will be looked on as a well earned bonus point, to leave the final score 24-28 to Ealing.
The day got better on hearing that 4th place Clifton had drawn against Dings, and 3rd place Rosslyn Park had lost to Worthing away.
Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore, commenting on his teams10th win of the season said “We new it was going to be a difficult place to go and get a result. The team stuck to their tasks well and never stopped working or believing that they could get something from the game. To come away with a bonus point win is a credit to all the players involved”
Ealing Trailfinders team
15 – Hodgkinson, 14 – Bruynseels, 13 – Burcham, 12 – Price, 11 – Chesters, 10 – Ward, 9 – Gill, 1 – Neville, 2 – Moyce, 3 – Alexopolous, 4 – Gregory, 5 – Winterbottom, 6 – Morris, 7 – King (c), 8 – Hall