Ealing Trailfinders came away with four league points in this bruising encounter with local rivals Richmond at Vallis Way, coming out on top in a close 15-13 game, following wins for Ealing’s two other teams involved in encounters with Richmond.
Ealing captain Ben Ward was well aware that the team fell well below the standards that they usually expect. "We expected a tough game , and we were not surprised at how strong Richmond were. They have recruited well over the pre season and came with the plan to defend us off the pitch. We made too many errors , which is something we will work on over the week ahead of the Southend game. Both kickers were not at their best, but when we had quality ball we were able to play with some pace, just the way we like to play the game".
The clubs veterans side, the Evergreens, produced a 10-3 win over their counterparts, Richmond Heavies, to record their first win in 4 seasons, followed by a comprehensive win for Ealing’s 2nd XV 42-26 in their league fixture.
Ealing’s 2nd XV coach, Corne Du Rand commented after his teams win, "the lads really stuck to the game plan on the narrow pitch and came away with a pleasing result, but we know there is a lot to work on regarding our game plan if we want to win our league ".
So onto the main course of the day, the National 2 South fixture between the clubs two 1st XVs. Although the season was only a week old, both teams were keen to come out of the blocks strongly.
Following a minutes silence in memory of departed friends, ex Club President Damian Bugeja and 1st XV prop Steve Keen, Ealing started brightly applying pressure which lead to referee Richard Philips penalising Richmond on 13 minutes, after their forwards went over the top at a ruck, allowing Neil Hallet to open his account with a well struck penalty. Indeed Mr Philips continued to penalise both sides at the breakdown, and Luke Cousins equalised for the visitors on 17 minutes.
On 24 minutes, a line break by the strong running Markus Burcham saw the ball transferred through several pairs of hands to wing Phil Chesters who cantered over for his 5th try of a two game old season. Neil Hallet stricking a lovely conversion from the left hand touchline to make it 10-3.
That was the final score of the half with both sides applying pressure, and in the final moment of the half Ealing were reduced to 14 men as referee Mr Philips adjust that lock James Winterbottom had handled at the ruck, and so ending his part in the game. He was replaced after half time by Gethin Davies.
Richmond took almost immediate advantage of the numbers, but Luke Cousins playing a dual role of hero and villain, tried to play the ball into the wide channel on the Ealing 22m line. An overlap looked on, but they didn’t expect Ealing’s fullback Pete Hodgkinson, who picked off the pass and set off on a 75m foot race to score on the right of the Richmond posts on 43 minutes take the score to 15-3, Hallet’s conversion just shaving the posts.
Cousins showed his metal and responded to the mistake. He calmly struck over a penalty on 46 minutes to reduce the deficit. By now Ealing had restored the numerical deficit, and despite Richmond enjoying their best period of the game in terms of territory, Ealing defence was holding firm.
It was Luke Cousins again who was looking to spoil the party for Ealing, when on 67 minutes he found a gap in the Ealing defence and went under the posts, adding the conversion to bring the score to 15-13 to the hosts.
Cousins did have a final chance with a long range penalty to take the win, but it drifted wide and with it so did Richmond’s hopes. Ealing cleared their lines and Mr Philips bought an end to the days proceedings.
Ealing Director of Rugby, Mike Cudmore was in reflective mood after what was a hard home win, "Richmond came with a specific game plan and we did not problem solve well enough throughout the game. There were various areas that were well below our performance standards and we will work hard in training this week to ensure these are sorted out before our tough away game at Southend. We did not play well but still managed a win"
Club President Brendan Kelly presented the man of the match award to Ealing’s number 8 Lee Starling.
Lee said of the game, "I guess that despite the closness of the scoreline, we may well look back on this game later in the season as four points won rather than one point lost. Richmond will be up there come the end of the season. They set their stall out early on and we took a while to overcome them. We played some decent phases and when we got behind them we looked dangerous. Southend will be another test this week, and one we will all look forwad to"
Next weekend Ealing visit the early pace setters in National 2 South, Southend, as both teams who are unbeaten after two games, lock horns. Kick off is 3pm.
Other fixtures: Ealing’s 2nd XV also take on Southend, whilst the Cougars are away at Civil Service 2nd XV . The Exiles take on London French whilst the Evergreens take on Barnes Vets in the only game of the day at Vallis Way .
15 – Peter Hodgkinson 14- Owen Bruynseels , 13 – Markus Burcham, 12 – Neil Hallett, 11- Phil Chesters, 10 – Ben Ward (C) 9, Morgan Thompson, 8 – Lee Starling , 7 – Jay King, 6 – Blair Morris, 5- James Winterbottom, 4- Matt Evans 3 – Lewis Brown, 2- Jon Moyce , 1 – Dinos Alexopolos
16 – Rob Buchanan, 17 – Sunny Kuwana, 18 – Gethin Davies, 19 – Ryan Gregory , 20 – Joe Price
Fullback Pete Hodgkinson crosses for Ealing Trailfinders second try of the day
Prop Lewis Brown, looks for a gap in the Richmond defence
Owen Bruynseels outpaces the defence with flanker Jay King (left) and number 8 Lee Starling in support
Lock Matt Evans claims another line out win
Centre Neil Hallett