Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV battled treacherous weather conditions to narrowly beat Blaydon 12-11 at Vallis Way. The hard-fought victory sees league leaders Ealing Trailfinders extend their lead to 18 points at the top of National 1 with five games remaining in what could prove to be a landmark season for the club. At the start of the day it appeared that the inclement weather would get the better of the top-of-the-table clash, but both sides were determined to proceed with the fixture, which turned out to be an attritional game of rugby.
Both sides began the game tentatively, with Blaydon having the benefit of playing with a brisk breeze at their backs. A needless penalty for ruck infringement in Ealing Trailfinder’s 22 resulted in Blaydon fly-half Andrew Baggett opening the scoring after a couple of minutes played. Muddy grounding, horizontal sleet and freezing temperatures meant that handling errors and rising influence from referee John Meredith were common themes. The visitors edged the opening exchanges and gained territorial ascendency as the half wore on. Mr Meredith penalised Ealing Trailfinders for another misdemeanour at the ruck and Baggett duly obliged as his penalty kick increased Blaydon’s lead to 6-0. Ealing Trailfinders hit back instantly when a series of pressure-exerting drives from close-quarters enabled the home side to build momentum. After a succession of inch-gaining carries round the fringes, scrum-half Morgan Thompson instinctively spotted an unguarded gap behind the ruck and darted over for the first try of the day. Thomas Wheatcroft, returning from an elbow injury, added the extras after an earlier missed penalty to take Ealing Trailfinders into a 7-6 lead. Blaydon stormed back, using their powerful pack to maul their way within a metre of the Ealing Trailfinders try-line, before scrum-half Andrew Davies squeezed over to score. Baggett’s impressive kicking display continued as his conversion reclaimed Blaydon’s lead, which remained intact up to the interval.
It was clear from the start of the second half that Ealing Trailfinders were going to exploit the tricky conditions by making life extremely difficult for the Blaydon back three. Ealing Trailfinders fly-half Ben Ward repeatedly kicked up-and-unders to test the nerve and skill of the Blaydon back division. The tide was beginning to turn as Ealing Trailfinders were gradually building momentum and pressuring Blaydon in all facets of the game. However, the visitors stood up to the challenge and were determined in their effort to thwart any Ealing Trailfinders attacks. The introduction of Ealing Trailfinders substitutes provided added impetus as they went in search of the match-winning score. Ronald Mclean-Dents, a second-half replacement for Phil Chesters, proved to be the home side’s hero of the day. The outside centre showed his finishing ability by scoring the all-important try in the right-hand corner to take Ealing Trailfinders into the lead with a handful of minutes to play. In a nervous conclusion to the game, Baggett had the opportunity to win the game at the death but his penalty fell just short, enabling Ealing Trailfinders to come away with what could turn out to be a crucial victory in their quest for the title.
Ealing Trailfinders are on the road this week to Sedgley Park before returning home to Vallis Way where they will face Loughborough Students and Cinderford on the 6th April and 13th April respectively. To find out more please click here