Following a 0-55 thumping in the first leg at their place, Ealing Exiles hosted Old Streetonians II for the rematch. Alex Kruczkowski reports.
With the majority of Exiles paying no heed to the published timetable, the fifteen players in the starting line-up made it out onto the pitch just about in time for the match to start a good ten minutes late. With four Ealing Rugby Club sides apparently unable to find a spare, pumped up ball, or a ball pump and valve, the match started with a somewhat squidgy ball, satisfactory to both sides but not to the referee.
In the third minute, the Exiles took an early lead from a penalty kick after stand-in captain Dave M took advantage of Barry’s absence (at the Christmas lunch) to elect to kick for goal. For those of you familiar with Barry’s approach to the game, kicking for three points is a very un-Exiles thing to do. Nevertheless, Alex A stepped up to the mark and slotted the 25 metre kick well.
And so the score remained 3-0 to the Exiles for the next half an hour, a period that saw Fabio come off for treatment to a nasty cut to his eye and Tom L come off with a popping shoulder. The Exiles defended well and made a few minor breaks, but perhaps nothing that was going to trouble Old Streetonians’ line. For their part, the opposition constantly but only mildly applied pressure, and certainly did not appear to be anything like the team the Exiles played at the beginning of October.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the Exiles dropped their concentration levels and allowed Old Streetonians to skip through one tackle too many, and in the 35th minute the opposition scored their opening try, along with a successful conversion.
At half-time, the score stood 3-7.
Five minutes into the second half saw the Exiles presented with another penalty kick opportunity, inside the opposition’s 22 and not too far from the centre of the pitch. With Alex A having been substituted at half-time to allow someone else half a game, Spike had the opportunity to claw the Exiles back to within a point. The kick fell just inches short of the crossbar but everyone was surprised when the referee judged one of Old Street’s flankers to have moved during the attempt. Gifted another attempt, this time Spike put the ball just inches wide of the upright. So it stayed 3-7 with a certain spectator, resplendent in red party hat, looking on from the side of the pitch, feeling vindicated in his beliefs about not kicking for three points!
A further five minutes later saw Paul T go down in a heap in the centre of the pitch. He had to be helped off by two others, only to later be driven to hospital and to have a cast put on his fractured foot.
Soon after, Old Streetonians scored and converted their second try, taking the score to 3-14. A quarter of an hour after that, an unconverted try saw them pull away to 3-19.
The Exiles fought hard for the final 15 minutes of the match and kept the opposition’s scoreline where it was. However, with the side tiring and running out of ideas, there appeared to be little chance of a final score from the home side.
And so it ended there, at 3-19. Michael T left the pitch with blood pouring from a gash in his ear and Spike left the pitch with a messed up thumb, taking the tally of obvious injuries to five.
Overall, the Exiles arguably played their best rugby of the season. Despite the loss, if looked at in context, it was against the top-of-the-league team that had previously beaten us 0-55, and thus not a bad result at all. If the Exiles can take this mindset forward to the next league match (against Feltham on 16 January) and beyond to the rescheduled Haringey match, there is still a chance of avoiding league relegation.
After the match, Old Streetonians appeared to disappear rather rapidly, but on the plus side, it meant there were lots of spare meal tickets and Guinness for everyone.
|Ealing Exiles 3||Old Streetonians II 19|