They say rugby is a 80 minute game, and the 79th minute try but Ealing’s Neil Hallett only goes to prove that. Ealing were pushed all the way by a determined Southend outfit, but to come away from this table topping National 2 South game having kept a clean sheet, something will be extremely pleasing for the coaches and the team.
Both teams came into this fixture at Vallis Way on Saturday having played no rugby since the start of December, due to the weather conditions, and it took a while for both sides to find their feet, and get into their stride after such a long layoff.
Head coach Kieran Power said to the Rugby Paper after the game, “It was a little bit frustrating to start with, but we were pleased to get the five points in the end.". Power added, “Every game between now and the end of the season is a cup final starting with a difficult game against Taunton next Saturday".
Ealing maintained their 100% home record thanks to some stout defence, and Skipper Ben Ward was full of praise for his side; he said “It was nice to have a week off at Christmas but at the back of our minds we all knew we had a tough fixture against Southend coming up. The lads worked really hard all week at training and apart from a bit of rustiness in being clinical and taking our opportunities we are very pleased with how we played. We know our defence is going to be key this year and it was important to start with a big defensive performance against a good attacking side."
Both teams came out and gave their all in the opening period of the game, and after an early scuffle, referee Andrew Jackson showed yellow cards to Ealing’s hooker Jon Moyce and the visitors’ scrum half Sam Arnott, and they were dispatched to the sin bin.
Ealing’s try scoring hero, wing Phil Chesters scored the game’s opening try after 19 minutes, when after a good attacking phase, outside centre Pete Hodgkinson broke through the Southend defence to offload to Chesters who crossed over in the left hand corner for his 26th try of the season. Hallett was unable to add the conversion.
Southend were slightly unlucky not to go into half time level. Both sides were attempting to play rugby, despite the heavy conditions. On Friday the pitch was covered in surface water, and following sterling work by both the groundsman and home supporters, the pitch was passed playable.
Just before half time a rare attack from the visitors, saw Sid Holt break through and off load to wing Danny Cleare, who crossed the Ealng line. The linesman adjudged the pass to be forward and they were bought back for a scrum .
Following the break, Ealing’s defence was again tested, and it remained unbroken. Despite the visitors’ attempts to draw level, it was Ealing who scored the game’s next try, on 54 minutes. Following a turn over ball, the ball was shipped out to Ealing’s other wing Owen Bruynseels, and he rounded off a fantastic free flowing moveto score in the right hand corner. Hallet was again unable to add the extras in the boggy Vallis Way conditions.
Chesters then pulled off a try saving tackle, on Southend’s Mark Billings when he broke through the Ealing defence. Chesters scrambled back and hauled his opposite number down just yards short of the try line.
The visitors fate was effectively sealed, when on 72 minutes they replaced their skipper Mark Williams with Todd Bailey. Bailey only lasted four minutes and following a technical offence, referee Andrew Jackson, again showed the yellow card to him and with it ending his participation on the days proceedings.
From the resulting penalty, Neil Hallett extended Ealing’s lead to 13-0 with less than 10 minutes to play. The visitors were looking increasing frustrated and Ealing’s defence denied them any ball in a decent position.The began to turn the screw, and replacement Ronny McLean-Dents weaved through the visitors defence to score. Hallett adding the extras and Ealing were 20-0 to the good, and still looking for the all important 4th try, with less than five minutes left.
As Southend, tried to move the ball across the backline, a grubber kick was snatched up by Neil Hallett, he collected the ball and dived over in the corner to claim the days 4th try and with it the bonus point that kept Ealing five points ahead of the nearest rivals Jersey, the conversion completed the days scoring and left Ealing with a deserved 27-0 win, dispelling memories of the 32-32 draw at Warners Bridge Road earlier in the season.
Ealing’s Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore said after the game, “Apart from a 10 minute period just after half time I was very happy with our game control. Our lineout and scrum produced good ball for the backs to play with and our defensive lineouts caused Southend a lot of problems and we defended with enthusiasm throughout. We were not as clinical as we would have liked in the first half but in the end it was a good bonus point win”.
Looking ahead to next week’s home game against Taunton, Ben Ward said “Taunton are a very strong side. We got a very good result at their place earlier in the season. However that result means nothing if we cant back it up by beating them at home. We will be working hard in training this week to ensure we are ready come 3pm Saturday."
Photos of Saturday’s action here. Our thanks to Loretta Thompson for the photos.
15 – Neil Hallett, 14 – Owen Bruynseels, 13 – Pete Hodgkinson, 12 – Joe Price, 11 – Phil Chesters, 10 – Ben Ward (c), 9 – Morgan Thompson
8 – Anders Neilsson, 7 – Lee Starling, 6 – Karl Gibson, 5 – Matt Evans, 4 – Ryan Gregory, 3 – Steve Neville, 2 – Jon Moyce, 1 – Lewis Brown
16 – Dinos Alexopoulos, 17 – Tyler Edwards, 18 – Blair Morris, 19 – Ronald McLean- Dents