On an exceptionally warm November day but playing on a heavy Wealden clay pitch, a much-changed Ealing Trailfinders Men’s 1sts captained by Olly Miller in the absence of Adam Hulmston were out-muscled in the second half by a strong and direct East Grinstead team containing several players who would not look out of place in their successful National League 3 side.
The first quarter of the game saw few openings for either team, with first Ealing and then the G’s enjoying periods of ascendancy. Centre George Bertolis was forced off within the first ten minutes with a recurrence of a knee injury, leading to the introduction of Paulius Deveikis for his first-team debut. Ealing had the better of the exchanges as the half-hour mark approached, and after awarding seven or eight penalties against the hosts for offside and going over the top, the referee lost patience and issued a yellow card. Two minutes later Ealing were given yet another penalty, which was kicked to touch, and from the resultant lineout the forwards drove to the line with John Worthington touching down. Full-back Steve Verma narrowly missed with the conversion attempt. This potentially crucial first score was cancelled out within a minute when Ealing allowed the restart kick to bounce, ultimately leading to an unconverted try on the left wing. Although ill-discipline led to yet more penalties in Ealing’s favour as the first half drew to a close, East Grinstead finished the first period the stronger. Despite a fine tackle by Verma, the G’s mounted a series of attacks and were only held up by an offence on the line which led to Ealing having to play the first ten minutes of the second half with 14 men. Rather than take the three points on offer, the G’s took a short penalty and failed to score, leaving the game evenly poised at 5-5 at the break.
With the benefit of a slight slope and breeze, Ealing had hopes of overcoming their Sussex opponents in the second half, but the yellow card and the loss of influential flanker Stu Miller with a shoulder injury took their toll. From a penalty East Grinstead moved the ball right, back left and then right again, and with the Ealing defence stretched the G’s No 10 stepped inside to put them into the lead for the first time, with a converted try. The lead was increased just before the three-quarter mark when an East Grinstead player kicked ahead and collected to score out wide on the right. A well-struck conversion left the score at 19-5.
Ealing did manage sporadic attacks but were repelled by a strong defence, and with ten minutes left on the clock the strong-running outside centre half-broke a tackle, and a well-timed offload created a try under the posts. A penalty increased the lead to 26-5 before another rampaging run by the No 13 created an overlap for the final score.
While a margin of 29 points perhaps flattered the hosts, the final score might have been higher were it not for the committing tackling of Steve Verma and Olly Miller in particular.