REPORT: Ealing Amateurs 1sts 22 – 14 Grasshoppers 2nds

Having lost narrowly to Hammersmith and Fulham two weeks previously, bringing an end to a remarkable 14-match unbeaten run, Ealing Amateurs 1sts returned to winning ways against local rivals Grasshoppers in Middlesex Merit Table 1.

As so often this season Ealing started strongly, and took the lead after five minutes. The first of many clean lineout catches during the match enabled fly-half Alex Gillespie to put Jonathan Murphy into space, and despite a tap tackle, the centre managed to stay on his feet and score between the posts, Gillespie adding the conversion.

Two minutes later second-row Sean Kennett set off on a barnstorming run and laid the ball back for captain Adam Hulmston to pick up and drive over for the second try. The attempted conversion went wide, but with just 15 minutes on the clock the home side further increased its lead after impressive work by the forwards. Flanker Des Crinion took a lineout catch, and after a passage of pick-and-go, Mike Whitney, replacing Kennett who had turned an ankle in setting up the second try, finished off the move. The conversion was again missed.

Despite pressure there was no addition to the score until 34 minutes into the game, when an unstoppable rolling maul led to a try by second-row Jonathan Haigh, again unconverted.

Ealing looked well in control at half time but appeared to take their foot off the pedal in the second half and, after weathering a sustained attack by the rejuvenated Grasshoppers, the home side again came under pressure and eventually conceded when a missed tackle left the visitors’ left wing with a free run to the line. With the game nearly over, indecision in the Ealing back line enabled Grasshoppers to win quick turnover ball and score under posts for a second converted try.

Ealing strengthened their hold on top spot in MMT1 but will need to rediscover the ruthlessness and clinical finishing that were in evidence before the Christmas break with important cup games to come in the Middlesex Bowl and North West Middlesex Floodlit Cup against higher-league opposition, as well as the concluding stages of the merit table.