A dramatic, physical and keenly contested match saw the Amateurs narrowly fail to leapfrog their opponents into top spot in the Zoo Shield Division 3 South.
Despite the long journey to West Sussex, Ealing were well prepared for the game and made a blistering start, narrowly missing with a kick at goal shortly after kick-off and then taking the lead with just five minutes on the clock, when prop Patrizio forced his way over the line following a quickly taken penalty for a high tackle. Full-back Steve Verma converted from half-way out. ‘Chi’ were shaken out of their lethargy by this early setback and mounted a series of attacks, resulting in three points from a penalty in front of the posts awarded for offside. Both sides enjoyed periods of ascendancy, with Ealing coming to close to cracking the defence through surging runs by flanker Giuseppe Salustri, but after 26 minutes the hosts took the lead with a try under the posts by their left wing, who was half-tackled but managed to roll over the line to touch down. The lead was nearly stretched after 33 minutes when the right wing galloped 40 metres down the touch line before being hauled down by Verma. With Chichester dominating the end of the first half, a penalty awarded for use of hands in the ruck, an area where the referee’s interpretation left both teams bemused all afternoon, left the interval score at 13-7.
As the second half got under way the Ealing set scrum was looking strong, but the visitors were penalised repeatedly for offside and the referee eventually decided to send second-row Des Crinion to the sin bin in what looked a marginal decision. The penalty was converted, leaving Chichester with a nine-point lead. No points were scored while the Amateurs were a man down, and a few minutes after the full complement was restored Chichester had their left wing yellow-carded for violent conduct and shortly afterwards had another man sin-binned. Ealing exploited their numerical advantage by releasing right wing Demaro Woodruffe to score in the corner and then dramatically snatched the lead with three minutes remaining with another try by Woodruffe, with a powerful run down the touch line. Substitute Alex Ward converted, and Ealing’s strong finish to the game looked likely to bring a crucial victory over the league leaders. However, it was not to be as Chichester, who throughout the game showed the physicality and skills that have seen them win all but one of their games, launched a series of attacks and with the last move of the game created an overlap for a try by the right wing, well converted.
This week the Amateurs travel to Wimbledon, aiming to return to winning ways and consolidate their top-three position behind Chichester and Rosslyn Park.