It was, in the words of baseball player Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again after the previous match against Tring, as the Men’s 1sts succumbed in the last five minutes in a game they could and probably should have won after the lead had changed hands several times and in thoroughly miserable weather.
Ealing have at least overcome the habit they acquired in the first half of the season of conceding a try within the first five minutes, and indeed converted some early pressure into a six-point lead through two well-struck penalties by standoff Callum Nolan-Hutchison in the opening quarter with a cruel February wind behind their backs. Despite going down to 14 men for the rest of the encounter as they lacked a front-row replacement, Irish came back into the contest, with a try on the half-hour mark through the forwards from a penalty and then moved into the lead when Ealing gifted possession with a dropped pass in midfield and the dangerous Wanderers full-back hacked on to touch down. Neither try was converted, however, and a try by wing Chris Rose, converted by Nolan-Hutchison, put the visitors back into the lead at 13-10 at the break.
With the advantage of the elements in the second half, Irish re-took the lead when they opted for an uncontested scrum when awarded a penalty and scored through their forwards courtesy of some half-hearted attempts at tackling. Ealing regained the lead when outside centre Michael Rugeley side-stepped his opposite number for the best try of the match, Nolan-Hutchison again converting, but lost it again just four minutes later when the Irish full-back scored his second try of the game. With a quarter of the game to go, the visitors were ahead again thanks to quick thinking by captain and 2nd row John Worthington, who took a quick penalty five metres out and ploughed over. One point ahead at 25-24, Ealing lost a man to a yellow card for coming in at the side and were punished shortly afterwards when one of the Wanderers forwards touched down.
After this disappointing loss against a team one place above them in Zoo Shield 2, albeit with a losing bonus point garnered in their quest to hold onto or improve on their current 9th position, the Men’s 1sts take on Redingensians at Vallis Way this Saturday, 17 February, before taking a two-week break from league action.