Ealing Trailfinders were given a few scares and faced a fired up Loughborough Students team under a full moon on Monday evening, but eventually it was the pack that managed to give Trailfinders the upper hand as the team fought back from a half-time deficit to secure their third win in three pre-season matches.
It was the visitors who kicked off and soon after they had the first chance to open the scoring, but fly-half George Eastwell pulled his penalty kick wide.
Ealing quickly moved the action to the other end of the field and after Joe Southwell was denied a try in the corner from a Will Magie cross-kick, the Students were penalised for deliberately hitting the ball out of play and from the resulting scrum Anders Nilsson drove over for the first try of the night. Magie added the extras with the conversion.
Almost immediately though Eastwell made amends for his earlier miss by landing two penalties, but thereafter Trailfinders took the initiative. Dogged Loughborough defence kept any attacks at bay though and against the run of play Loughborough scrum-half Henry Taylor broke through the Ealing defence to score in the corner and give the visitors a half-time lead of 11-7.
They extended it further with a James Moffatt penalty soon after the teams returned from half-time, but midway through the half Trailfinders were fully in control thanks to their pack.
First replacement scrum-half Morgan Thompson made a quick impact by touching down after the pack had driven back the Students’ scrum and then the pack won a penalty try after shunting their opposite numbers backwards. With Magie’s second conversion the hosts were back in control at 19-14 with 20 minutes remaining.
Both teams continued to pursue their policy of running rugby and Moffatt closed the gap to two points with his second penalty.
Ronnie McLean and Tom Parker went close to scoring a well-worked try with eight minutes remaining, but while they were pulled back for a knock-on, the pack won a free-kick from the following scrum, opted for it to be reset and Thompson reached through a sea of legs to score his second.
With Magie slotting his third conversion nine points separated the teams with five minutes remaining, but there was still time for Thompson to grab his hat-trick after the pack put the squeeze on the Students for one more time.
Ealing Trailfinders 31: Tries, Nilsson, Penalty, Thompson 3; Conversions, Magie 3
Loughborough Students 17: Tries, Taylor; Penalties, Eastwell 2, Moffatt 2
Ealing Trailfinders Director of Rugby, Mike Cudmore: “Loughborough Students came with a specific game plan in defence and added to that there attacking ability made the fixture at all times competitive and this reflected in the score at halftime with us behind.
“We addressed areas at half time that needed looking at and the players who came off the bench in the second half made a significant impact. In the end I was pleased with the win and some good individual performances by some players, but as in any preseason game there is still lots to work on.”