The Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV beat a resolute Esher outfit to secure their seventh victory of the season and stay top of National 1. On a mild autumn day at Vallis Way, it was Esher who began the match the brighter of the two sides as a fantastic break in the opening minute by fly-half Gareth Morgan had the Ealing Trailfinders retreating and forced to defend their line. The momentum both sides are known for creating was being halted by ill-discipline as penalties against both teams was all too prevalent in the opening stanzas. Once the game settled down it was Ealing Trailfinders who began to string a run of phases together, and almost scored after an audacious Peter Hodgkinson off-load metres from the try-line failed to go to hand. The Ealing Trailfinders pack were firmly stamping their authority on the game with a host of powerful driving line-outs and scrums. An Esher scrum infringement allowed last week’s penalty hero Thomas Wheatcroft to kick the first points of the day. Esher full-back Robert Kirby replied immediately when he struck over a penalty for an Ealing tackler deemed too slow to roll away. Ealing Trailfinders were looking dangerous with ball in hand as they cleverly combined barnstorming forward runners with the guile of their quick and opportunistic backline to cause the visitors problems. The dependable Wheatcroft added two more penalties to give his side a 9-3 lead. As an attritional first half was drawing to a close, Esher were refusing to lie down as ex-Ealing Trailfinders player Jack Clifford and former-Saracens second-row Kris Chesney were increasingly coming to the fore. On the stroke of half-time Referee Terry Hall penalised Ealing for being off-side and Kirby obliged to take the score to 9-6.
Ealing Trailfinders had a dream start to the second half when Phil Chesters crossed for the first try of the game. The hosts managed to successfully turnover Esher’s ball before Ben Ward’s precise grubber kick was collected by the speedster to score. Wheatcroft’s conversion enhanced the West London side’s lead to 16-6. Kirby and then Wheatcroft traded penalties as Ealing Trailfinders were looking comfortable holding onto their 19-9 lead. However, Ealing Trailfinder’s scrum dominance was gradually beginning to falter as Esher’s reinforcements were making their mark. Esher struck back and was right in the game thanks to Joseph Brown’s try. Esher duplicated the home side’s opening try as replacement fly-half Chris Elder judged his cross-field kick to perfection as Brown touched down just before Chesters managed to get there first. Having been in control of proceedings and led for over an hour of the game, Ealing Trailfinders surprisingly found themselves trailing 21-19. Replacement prop Kyle Sinckler, impressive since his arrival to the game, burst through a gap at the ruck on the 22 metre line to score under the posts. Kirby’s conversion confirmed that Ealing needed to score to retake the lead. It was a case of déjà vu as Chesters was once again on hand to score the crucial try. Ward and Chesters combined in identical fashion to the opening try to once again give Ealing Trailfinders the lead in this absorbing contest. Wheatcroft’s flawless kicking display took the score to 26-21 with just under 10 minutes remaining. Ealing Trailfinders showed tremendous defensive commitment to weather an Esher attacking storm that threatened to steal a late try. In an anxious finale, relief was clear to see on Ealing Trailfinders faces as Brown knocked on with the try line begging with the last play of the game.
Ealing Trailfinders will be hoping to continue their fine form when they travel to Wharfedale this Saturday before returning to Vallis Way on the 3rd November where they will face the St Albans based Old Albanian side who won the 2011/12 National 2 South league.