Top of the table clashes are often close games and Rosslyn Park’s visit to Vallis Way was not different. A last minute missed conversion by Ealing Trailfinders fly half Ben Ward, brought joy to one set of players and despair to another.
Given the state of the Vallis Way pitch, the standard of rugby on display was a credit to both teams. Yes errors did occur but both teams made a positive effort to play some rugby. An early morning pitch inspection passed the pitch playable, but a deluge of rain mid morning left the groundsman scratching his head as to where the water would go!
Park took the early advantage playing down the slope into the deep end, an early Ross Laidlaw penalty on three minutes for infringing at the side. There followed a period of both teams looking to apply pressure with tactical kicking. Park camped on the left had side of Ealing’s 22 m line. Defence was of paramount importance and waves off attack were thwarted with some great tacking in what was becoming a bog.
Ealing responded with some strong set pieces, Park had arrived with a reputation for having a strong front five, but Ealing’s Steve Neville, Jon Moyce, Dinos Alexpoulous, Blair Morris and James Winterbottom showed their own class, on several occasions moving the opposition scrum backwards. This led on 15 minutes to Ben Ward stroking a penalty over 10m into the Rosslyn Park half, for Park standing up in the scrum.
Both sides were cagey, the conditions often meaning that the kick chase game was a preferred tactic. There were no gaps in either side’s back line. Park continued to pressure Ealing, leading to a 23rd minute penalty, allowing Laidlaw to increase the visitors lead to 3-6.
Ealing looked dangerous with the ball in hand, and despite the conditions, tried to use it. Full Back Pete Hodgkinson looked as elusive as ever, and wing Owen Bruynseels was proving a handful to the Park back three. A period of sustained pressure, saw Ben Ward chip over the advancing Park back line, looking for the ball to sit up in this bog was always a lottery, but coming back off the posts, missing the on rushing Hodgkinson and into the hands on the Rosslyn Park full back Davies, Park cleared their lines to their relief. From the ensuing lineout on 39 minutes, Ealing drove into the heart of the Park eight. Rosslyn Park prop Nick Hugget, came in at the side, threw a punch and was dispatched to the sin bin to think about proceding by referee Luke Pearce. Park held out for the final minute of the half.
The first 10 minutes of the second half would be important, as Ealing looked to take advantage of their numerical advantage. Playing with the ball helps, and during this period Park maintained possession . Ealing having to defend for large periods of this. Their defence was awesome, no other words for it. Bodies were put on the line time and time again. Credit must be given to Rosslyn Park for their ability to keep the home side camped in their own half.
The final quarter of the game, saw Ealing begin to dominate proceedings again. They enjoyed the lions share of possession but were finding holes in the visitors defence hard to locate.
Looking to move the ball into the wider less wet channels, Ealing were penalised for not releasing and on 75 minutes Ross Laidlaw extended the visitors lead to 3-9, and the game seemed to be edging Park’s way. Ealing were battering into the opposition but were finding no way through. One such attack ended when full back Richard Davies cleared his lines from a penalty, finding touch close to Ealing’s 10m.
For some inexplicable reason, Parks wing took a quick penalty, and given the conditions a catch and drive should have been the chosen option. The ball was spilled, Joe Price hacked on, and some nifty footwork from wing Phil Chester’s saw the Ealing speedster cross out wide on the left for his 18th try of the season.
The game hung on the conversion. Both kickers admitted after the game that the pitch had made kicking a lottery. The crowed went silent as Ben Ward attempted to win the game with the last kick of the game. The kick had neither the legs or direction, but as Park leapt for joy, Ealing were left to wonder what if.
Ealing Trailfinders skipper Jay King said after the game "The effort and commitment from all the guys was outstanding, I thought our defence was oustanding. Park had us under the cosh for some sustained periods and to keep them out showed a real desire from the guys. The result was disappointing but the nature of league rugby is that you have to shake these defeats off pretty sharpish and get on with it. We know what we have to do as a squad, it pretty simple, and we are all focused on this."
A game that given the conditions was a credit to both sides, both of whom would have preferred to see dryer conditions. A losing bonus point to Ealing now leaves them in 3rd position, level on league points with Park on 81, and 4 behind leaders Barking who won the battle of Essex against Southend.
Next weekend – Ealing travel to Oxfordshire to visit Henley RFC. Kick off is 3pm . For details see http://www.henleyrugbyclub.org.uk/
Ealing Trailfinders team:
15 – Pete Hodgkinson 14 – Owen Bruynseels 13- Markus Burcham 12 – Joe Price 11 – Phil Chesters 10 – Ben Ward 9 – Paddy Gill 1- Steve Neville 2 – Jon Moyce 3 – Dinos Alexpoulous 4 – Blair Morris 5 – James Winterbottom 6 – Luke Wallace 7- Jay King (C) 8 – Guthrie Hall
Subs – 16 – Lewis Brown 17 – Sungo Kuwana 17 – Rob Buchanan 18 – Gethin Davies 19 – Dave Essien 20 – Richard Briggs
Ealing – 15 minutes Ben Ward ( Penalty) , 79 minutes Phil Chesters (try)
Rosslyn Park – 3, 25 & 75 minutes Ross Laidlaw (Penalities)
Skipper Jay King with mascots Oran G, Jamie S & Sam C
Second row James Winterbottom drives into the Rosslyn Park defence
Piano shifters show they can run as well! Prop Steve Neville shows his pace