Ealing Trailfinders were crowned champions of National One when they overcame an industrious Cinderford outfit 28-17 at Vallis Way. The league leaders trailed 17-13 at half-time before a spirited second-half comeback saw them claim their 23rd win of a memorable season and promotion to the Championship.
On a wet day where conditions were not conducive to Ealing’s attacking style, Cinderford threatened to spoil the home side’s party with a fiercely competitive performance.
With so much at stake for the club, it was unsurprising that Ealing Trailfinders dominated the opening exchanges, and they were unfortunate not to break through the visitors’ defence. As Ealing Trailfinders pressed, captain Ben Ward took the opportunity to convert the sustained pressure into points when his drop-kick in the 4th minute sneaked over the bar. Ealing Trailfinders steadily continued to build momentum and went further ahead when Thomas Wheatcroft kicked a penalty. The Ealing Trailfinders dominance was unrelenting and they looked set to storm away with victory. However, with the Cinderford try-line beckoning and a three-man Ealing Trailfinders overlap waiting to pounce, Ward’s long pass was smartly intercepted by former Gloucester centre Jack Adams, who raced the length of the field to score. Mark Davies’ conversion sent the Forest of Dean side into a fortuitous 7-6 lead. The unlikely lead gave the visitors a new lease of life and inner belief that they could cause an almighty shock away from home. Cinderford seized control of the game as their ball carriers made yards in the Ealing Trailfinders half and threatened to increase their lead. After securing lineout ball near the Ealing Trailfinders line, they purposefully drove over, with flanker Will Foden claiming the try. Davies converted again to push Cinderford 14-6 in front. Ealing Trailfinders hit back when Ronald McLean-Dents hit a superb line and brushed aside several defenders on his way to the try-line for Ealing Trailfinders first try of the game. Wheatcroft’s conversion reduced the deficit to 14-13. On the stroke of half time, a Davies penalty extended Cinderford’s lead to four points. Within three minutes of the start of the second half Ealing Trailfinders were on the scoreboard thanks to Wheatcroft’s second successful penalty. With the home side applying pressure, Foden went from hero to villain as he was yellow carded for cynically collapsing a driving maul that was destined for the try-line. Ealing Trailfinders took full advantage of the numerical advantage as No. 8 Mat Evans crossed after an unstoppable drive had powered its way to the Cinderford line. Ealing Trailfinders sealed the victory when Andrew Henderson finished superbly in the corner in the 74th minute of the game.
Ealing Trailfinders patiently held on for the final minutes and when referee Marcus Caton finally blew the final whistle wild celebrations broke out among the players and management, as well as a chorus of delighted cheers from the loyal Ealing Trailfinders fans.