Yet another slow start and a generally below-average performance away at mid-table Henley led to a fifth straight reverse in Zoo Shield League 2 in a game that, like the previous week’s 22-14 loss at Tring, will go down as a missed opportunity to secure league points. To cap a disappointing afternoon, influential No 8 Zac Gregory was stretchered off at the final whistle with a serious knee injury.
For the fourth consecutive match Ealing conceded early points, on this occasion giving away a try in the first minute, scored by a Henley centre after the visitors had knocked on from the kick-off. In another repeat of the Tring game, Ealing started to assert some authority in the forward exchanges but then found themselves two scores down. Henley won turnover ball inside their own half, booted the ball downfield, followed up at speed to regain possession and finished off on the left wing courtesy of a two-man overlap. Soon afterwards the visitors put their first points on the board with a well-struck penalty by stand-off Harry Vidler. Further Ealing pressure followed, eventually leading to a try. From a line-out steal, scrum-half Olly Miller, in his first game of the season, wrong-footed the Henley defence by feigning to pass to Vidler and instead darting to the blind side, where good support play by the forwards enabled prop Kadeem Collins to squeeze over close to the right-hand touchline. With Henley restored to their full complement after a yellow card, Vidler unluckily spent the last ten minutes of the first half in the sin bin for going offside. While Ealing were a man down Henley notched their third try with a catch-and-drive from a lineout, but it was the visitors who finished the half more strongly, although scrums taken in lieu of a pot at goal failed to produce the hoped-for reward. Nevertheless, a half-time score of 17-8 meant that the game was far from over.
Ealing needed to start the second period with a greater sense of urgency and showed early promise, wing James Booth collecting Vidler’s kick-off and setting up an attack. Unfortunately Henley then once again secured turnover ball and quickly turned defence into attack to score a try and extend their lead to 24-8. Any hope of a comeback was snuffed out by another Henley try on the left wing, before Ealing collected their only points of the second period with good handling in the backs creating space for full-back Ben Bridgewood to dot down in the corner. The game drifted to a conclusion with Ealing repeatedly squandering good attacking positions by giving away penalties at the breakdown, and Henley recording their sixth try of the afternoon after seizing on a spilt pass. The referee blew for no-side a couple of minutes early to enable Gregory to received attention for a painful knee injury sustained when he turned awkwardly.
The Men’s 1sts have a week’s break before travelling to Redingensians on 28 October, their sixth away game in the first eight fixtures.