The Ealing Trailfinders kicked off their 2012/2013 National League One campaign with an emphatic 37-13 win over Coventry at the Butts Park Arena. The long-awaited start to the season did not disappoint as the Ealing side were just too good for a team that, like ETRFC, harbour promotion ambitions.
On a warm day, the visiting side demonstrated that the summer arrivals of prop Tim Tunnicliff, lock Steve Pape and back row Sam Shires were to prove worthy acquisitions, as their presence in the pack resulted in a scrum penalty successfully converted by centre Tom Wheatcroft. As a team known for exciting try-scoring backs, it came as a welcome surprise that the first try of the season was as a result of a supremely dominant Ealing scrum enabling No.8 Shires to score and give Ealing Trailfinders a 10-0 lead. A brief lapse in concentration in our own 22 enabled replacement prop Rob Dugard to crash over from close range. Fly-half Cliffie Hodgson added the extra’s to reduce the lead to 10-7 after 25 minutes of play. Again, it was the ETRFC pack’s continued pressure that allowed England Counties full-back Peter Hodgkinson to score after his side’s scrum had the Coventry defence back-pedalling.
Ealing Trailfinders determined defence and structured power rugby illustrated that they were in control of the game. With just minutes before the break, excellent line-out pressure from the Ealing Trailfinders forwards saw the ball fall into the grateful hands of scrum-half Morgan Thompson who sprinted 15 meters to score. Tom Wheatcroft’s successful conversion gave Ealing Trailfinders a well- deserved 22-7 lead at half-time.
The first points of the second half came via the boot of Hodgson, who successfully slotted a penalty given for the tackler not rolling away. Any chances of a Coventry comeback were dashed, a scything break from Sam Shires had the hosts on the back foot, which Fly-half Ben Ward exploited as he delivered the final pass for Owen Bruynseels to score Ealing Trailfinders all important bonus point try. ETRFC may have been guilty for resting on their laurels for the 10 minutes that followed the try as Coventry camped in their half with a Hodgson penalty kick to show for their territorial dominance. Coventry’s forward game was reaping little rewards as last season’s runners up continually knocked them back in the tackle and contact areas. Tom Wheatcroft kicked another penalty before last season’s National League 1 top try scorer Phil Chesters managed to get on the scoreboard after a deft grubber chip from Ben Ward was chased down by the speedster. Ben Ward, taking over the kicking duties from the replaced Tom Whetacroft, converted the try to seal the 37-13 win for the West London side.
After the game, Ealing Trailfinders Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore said "I was happy with our game management and overall performance. We came away with a bonus point win away from home and that is always pleasing."
Ealing Trailfinders welcome London rivals Rosslyn Park to Vallis way next Saturday in what is expected to be an exciting game of rugby.