REPORT: Ealing Amateurs 26 – 16 Chobham

Ealing Amateurs climbed to third place in the Zoo Shield Division 3 South with a bonus-point win over good-quality opposition on a bright November day.

Due to a quirk of league rules, two consecutive walk-overs had seen the Amateurs drop from fourth to fifth as they were denied the opportunity to secure try bonus points, so the rearranged fixture against Chobham on a rest-day for most other teams in the league presented an opportunity to move up the table. However, it quickly became clear that the men from Surrey were not going to roll over meekly, and it was the visitors who opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty 10 minutes into the game. The two sides swapped periods of dominance in the opening quarter, until Ealing fashioned the first try of the day, scored by scrum half Olly Miller, darting over the line after his team had run through a couple of phases following an attack down the wing by Rhys Langford. A few minutes later Chobham managed to move the ball away despite pressure on their set scrum and slick passing saw them restore their lead, extended by another accurate kick.

A well contested game swung Ealing’s way in the crucial period just before half time. Silky passing along the back line released wing Pascale Baptiste to launch himself at the line, but he was held up, resulting in a five-metre scrum. Roared on by the home crowd the pack headed inexorably for the line but a deliberate offside, which could easily have yielded a yellow card, led to another scrum taken in preference to a kick at goal, and when Chobham collapsed the scrum to prevent an inevitable touch-down the referee had no option but to award a penalty try, converted by full back Steve Verma. The narrow lead of 12-10 was stretched to a 19-10 within two minutes when Verma came into the line, cut back inside and raced away to the line for a fine try, which he converted himself.

With three tries in the first half, Ealing’s priority was to secure a bonus point by scoring a fourth, while maintaining the resolute defence that had been an impressive feature of the first 40 minutes. However, Chobham came back to within one score by kicking a penalty on 47 minutes for holding on. With 15 minutes left on the clock the Amateurs scored their fourth try through centre Alex Hazell, in a move starting from a pick-up by No 8 Adam Hulmston from a scrum won against the head. A well struck conversion left Ealing with a comfortable 13 point lead, which was reduced as the game drew towards a close by a penalty in front of the posts for offside.

In one of their more impressive performances of the season, with loose-head prop Phil Cotter deservedly named man of the match for his direct running and crunching tackles, the Amateurs showed some of the resoluteness, forward power and cutting edge they will need in two crucial forthcoming matches, against Bracknell at home and then Chichester away, two teams who between them have lost only one game, the narrow win secured by Bracknell a week ago over the league leaders.