Following the titanic battle at The Athletic Ground Richmond last weekend, Ealing Trailfinders travelled East to the Garden of England to play Westcombe Park at Goddington Dene in Kent.
Combe, fighting for their survival in National 2 South proved to be no pushover as Mike Cudmore’s side had to work hard for their five try win, spurred on by two try hero Ronnie McLean- Dents who deputised for Pete Hodgkinson in the 13 shirt. Other changes were made to the side that beat Richmond the previous week 15-6, Ben Griffiths coming onto the second row for Matt Evans, and Sam Wardingley coming onto the bench.
Ealing ran out eventual 39-10 winners and with it took their 11th consecutive win on the trot.
Captain Ben Ward said after the game, "Goddington Dene is a hard place to come as we found out the previous year. We are very pleased with the result especially getting the bonus point secured by half time. We didn’t feel we did ourselves justice in attack the week before and it was pleasing to go out and attack as we did. Westcombe Park is a much better team than their league position would suggest."
Ealing started the game as they had done the previous week, looking to move the heavy Combe pack around the pitch, and centre Joe Price went over after tenminutes, collecting a precision cross field kick delivered by Ben Ward, Neill Hallett adding the first of his successful conversions for the day. Combe stand-off Joe Simpson missed a relatively easy early penalty shortly afterwards, and the home side were made to pay, as Ealing scored two tries in an 8 minutes spell to effectively end this as a contest. Firstly the impressive Ronnie McLean Dents crossed for the first of his brace on 19 minutes when following some strong defence by the visitors, they forced a turnover, and McLean – Dents found a huge hole in the defence to saunter in untouched, Hallett adding the extras.
Second row Ben Griffiths extended Ealing’s lead to 19-0 after 27 minutes and with Hallett again on target, Ealing were good value for their 21-0 lead.
On 34 minutes the home side’s second row John Wright was shown a yellow card for killing the ball, from the resultant scrum, Morgan Thompson, the hero of The Athletic Ground with his 78th minute drop goal, pounced and crossed for Ealing’s 4th try, as the home side’s scrum was shunted backwards by the Ealing pack.
Going into half time with the bonus point in the bag, Ealing maybe should have kicked on, but Combe, who also tested Richmond two week’s previously, started the second period the better.
Latching onto a loose bouncing ball, their centre Joe Coleman gave the home side a glimmer of home as he went over wide out. The resultant conversion sailed wide, and when Neil Hallett knocked a simple 49th minute penalty, you could see the home side’s shoulders drop.
Mike Cudmore made some changes maybe with one eye on the Jersey fixture this weekend, Dinos Alexopoulos coming on for Steve Neville, and shortly afterwards, Jack Fishwick Sonny Kuwana , Sam Wardingly and Matt Evans replaced the foursome of Karl Gibson, Lewis Brown, Joe Price and Lee Starling.
The pressure didn’t stop, as Phil Chesters, fresh from setting National League try scoring records, crossed for his 41st try of the campaign as he again was the beneficiary of a pin point cross field kick. With four minutes remaining, Ronnie McLean Dents found himself free on the right wing, and Ealing were out to 39-5. On the stroke of full time Gavin Wells managed to get a consolation try for the home side, but Ealing remain the team to beat in National 2 South.
Looking ahead to the top of the table clash at Vallis Way with Jersey next Saturday, Ben Ward said "Obviously, to everyone looking in, it’s a massive game this weekend with the top two teams in the league meeting. In this league though you can’t look too far ahead, so as players we had only been focused on the Westcombe Park game. We will do our homework on the opposition as you always do and look to put in a good home performance. They are the only side to have beaten us this year so imp sure it will be a cracker of a game. Hopefully we will get at least as many supporters as we had down at Richmond and they will be as vocal as they were then!"
Two try hero Ronnie McLean Dents is aware that Jersey offer different proposition, but is looking forward to the challenge, "The game against Jersey this weekend as we all know is huge, however our approach to the game is like any other where we have trained hard, looked at the opposition and come up with a plan of attack. I’m personally excited to play another top of the table side and looking forward to a great performance from the team."
Mike Cudmore added, "I was happy with the scoreline and the five point return from the Westcombe Park game. We are now all working hard in training and all looking forward to this week’s visit from Jersey".
Kick off at Vallis Way this weekend is 2pm.
15 – Neil Hallett, 14 – Owen Bruynseels , 13 – Ronald McLean-Dents, 12 – Joe Price, 11 – Phil Chesters, 10 – Ben Ward (c) , 9 – Morgan Thompson
8 – Anders Nilsson , 7 – Lee Starling, 6 – Karl Gibson , 5 – ,Ben Griffiths , 4 – Ryan Gregory , 3 – Steve Neville, 2 – Jon Moyce , 1 – Lewis Brown
16 – Dinos Alexopoulos 17 – Sungo Kuwana, 18 – Matt Evans , 19- Jack Fiswick 20 – Sam Wardingly