A pulsating game of rugby notable for its high quality and exciting twists and turns right through to the final whistle saw Ealing Amateurs collect silverware for the second time in two weeks in the form of the North West Middlesex Floodlit Cup. A crowd of nearly 200 saw a game of high drama played in good spirit by local rivals who have locked horns in many closely fought matches over the years.
Warm weather in recent days meant that the pitch was dry and fast, albeit a little bumpy in places after weeks of rain. The game began with intensity and tempo that were to be characteristic of the entire 80 minutes, and Ealing looked in good form from the kick-off with the forwards making good ground before a penalty for not releasing put Ruislip back on the attack, with the big No 8 bursting through the Ealing defence and offloading to a back-row colleague to score close to the posts. With two points added for the conversion and a heavyweight scrum to contend with, the Amateurs knew they were in for one of their toughest games of a season. Undaunted by the early setback, Ealing went on the attack after the award of a penalty. The forwards had scored countless tries in recent weeks from clean line-out possession, and this potent weapon was deployed once again as a driving maul headed for the try line. In desperation Ruislip pulled it down, but with the referee playing advantage the Ealing forwards peeled off and Ash Spencer, who has played more games and attended more training sessions than any other Amateurs player this season, earned his just reward by scoring. With the conversion missed, Ruislip held a slender lead, which was stretched to 14-5 when the left wing finished off a move that appeared to involve a forward pass. The try was impressively converted from wide out on the left.
Despite their try, the Ealing forwards were not having things all their own way, with Ruislip if anything achieving slight superiority in the set scrums and competing strongly on the Amateurs line-out throw. However, the scrum held firm and Ruislip were finally penalised after repeated deliberate wheeling on the Ealing put-in. A crucial difference as the first half drew to a close was that the Ealing forwards were noticeably more mobile than their counterparts. After a series of probing runs into the heart of the Ruislip defence, the Amateurs were awarded a penalty shortly before half-time for offside, and Jon Knott reduced the deficit to 14-8.
Within a few minutes of the re-start it was becoming clear the pendulum had swung, with the Ealing forwards rampant in the loose and the back line running with increasing fluency. After seven minutes of the second period another driving maul from a line-out led to a try wide out on the right, scored by either Ash Spencer or Mike Whitney, depending on which of the two you listen to. With the conversion narrowly missed, Ealing were just a point adrift at 14-13.
Increasing territorial dominance led to two successful penalty kicks by Knott, pushing Ealing into the lead for the first time in the match at 19-14, and they came close to moving two scores ahead when Des Crinion’s storming run down the left was halted just short of the try line.
With five minutes to go and the Ealing fans preparing to celebrate, Ruislip scored close to the right touch line after a period of pressure during which Ealing conceded a series of penalties. Crucially, the conversion attempt had ample elevation but sailed inches wide of the upright. At 19-19 and with the prospect of 10 minutes each way of extra time, Ealing pulled off a thrilling and deserved win. Lasting the 80 minutes clearly better than their counterparts, the Amateurs pack powered their way to deep inside the Ruislip 22 metre area, and in the last play of the match left wing Rhys Langford jinked his way over for the crucial winning try.
An exciting and high-quality game of rugby won deep into time added on for injuries, of which there were several in a bruising but fairly contested encounter, was a fitting end to what has been a highly successful season for Ealing Amateurs, expertly coached by Craig Bowley.