Ealing Trailfinders’ clinical edge proved too much for Blackheath as the league leaders clinched an absorbing derby 21-14 at Vallis Way.
Due to the recent adverse weather conditions, Ealing Trailfinders had not played since their 25-22 victory against Tynedale on 12th January and the fans were treated to a typically attritional derby clash. The opening exchanges were evenly contested as both sides combined an efficient kicking game strategy with forward runners repeatedly rampaging over the gain-line. Ealing Trailfinders centre Thomas Wheatcroft and Blackheath pivot Rory Teague exchanged penalties to level the scores at 6-6 with a quarter of the game played. Ealing Trailfinders forwards experienced contrasting fortunes in their set-pieces. In the scrum the hosts had the edge over their London counterparts, as the Blackheath pack was dismantled with relative ease on a regular basis. However, the Ealing Trailfinders line-out performed dismally, reducing their electric back-line to living off scraps. The clinical nature of Ealing Trailfinders attacking prowess was fully evident in their first try of the game. A passage of play from the home side lured Blackheath numbers into the ruck before a jinking break and perfectly-timed pass by Peter Hodgkinson found Wheatcroft , whose deft grubber-kick into space was collected and scored by Phil Chesters. Wheatcroft’s third successful penalty sent Ealing Trailfinders into a 14-6 interval lead.
As expected, Blackheath surfaced from the break with renewed energy in their attempt to reduce the 8-point deficit. Despite securing a large proportion of the territorial advantage, the visitors lacked the necessary penetration in the final third of the field. Ealing Trailfinders defence, particularly against Blackheath’s line-out drives, stood firm and continually forced them back. With less than a quarter of the game remaining, Teague’s third penalty of the game reduced the arrears to 14-9 and signalled a potentially thrilling finale to the derby. However, Blackheath’s optimism quickly dissipated when Ealing Trailfinders’ second try all but secured the victory. A succession of close quarter pick and drives, which proved to be a successful weapon in Ealing Trailfinders attacking arsenal all afternoon, resulted in replacement hooker Jon Moyce sneaking over to score. Wheatcroft’s conversion sent the home side into a 21-9 lead with 8 minutes remaining. Blackheath refused to lie down and managed to score a consolation try through winger Liam Gibson that provided them with the losing bonus point.
It is back to back London derby home games for Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV as Richmond come to Vallis Way to play the rescheduled fixture from the 19th January this Saturday. It is a 3pm KO on Saturday so get down and show your support.