REPORT: Ealing Amateurs 1sts 34 – 7 Esher

Ealing Amateurs finished off the first half of their league campaign with an emphatic six-try victory, scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half. On a breezy December day Esher had the advantage of the elements in the first 40 minutes but soon found themselves having to defend their line as Ealing dominated in the loose.

Time and again a try looked inevitable only for a knock-on to return possession to the visitors. With a quarter of the game gone neither side had managed to put points on the board, and Esher were starting to put together some periods of pressure themselves. With a strong bench available to him, Ealing coach Nick Lambert brought on flanker Giuseppe Salustri and second-row Sean Kennett, and greater urgency was quickly apparent. Shortly after coming onto the field Kennett scored the first try of the afternoon following a penalty and line-out. Centre Alex Hazell, taking over kicking duties for the day, nailed the conversion from wide out on the left.

Seven minutes later a second try followed when scrum half Stef McCabe snapped up a dropped pass on the Esher line. Esher, one of the stronger teams in the league, showed that they were not going to give up easily and mounted sustained pressure as the half-time whistle approached. After three successive penalties around the 22 metre line and eschewing the easy three points on offer, the visitors worked an overlap and scored a converted try under the posts through their inside centre.

Conceding a try on the stroke of half-time made the Amateurs determined to assert their authority after the re-start, and with the benefit of a strengthening wind they proceeded to dominate the whole of the second half. Left wing Pascal Baptiste, in sparkling form in recent weeks, was twice held up on the line, and with 53 minutes on the clock Ealing won an Esher line-out through John Worthington and flanker Ed Shryane forced his way over to make the score 17-7. Six minutes later Baptiste finally scored, hitting the ball at pace and showing good physical strength to stay on his feet despite two attempted tackles and reach the line. On 64 minutes he scored again in almost identical fashion, except that this time a double side-step took him away from the defence to score under the posts, with Hazell converting to push the lead to 29-7. With a bonus-point victory already assured, the Amateurs scored a fourth second-half try when Des Crinion, who started at centre but finished the game in his usual position of flanker, touched down after clean line-out ball was driven powerfully to the line.

With the first round of 13 league fixtures completed, Ealing Amateurs have won 10 and lost three, and with just one point separating the top three sides are well placed to compete for the championship. The last game before the Christmas break is away to Cobham this Saturday, 21 December.