A topsy-turvy day in National 2 South saw a convincing home win for the Trailfinders while much-fancied Jersey crashed at Taunton, and Southend stayed in top spot despite losing at home to lowly Clifton.
N2S is developing into the league to watch. Just as it began to look like a handful of teams were pulling away it delivered the sorts of surprises that will see another season go down to the wire.
Ealing began strongly at home against an Old Albanians side that had won five from eight and surely would have looked for something from the short trip to West London. But Ealing had their tails up for the whole first half and were soon camped on the Old A’s line where number 8 Anders Nilsson picked up from the back of a five metre scrum and fed winger Owen Bruynseels who dived to place the ball on the line. For a moment the world stopped, and it was Ealing who realised the lack of action from referee Phillips meant Bruynseels was short of the line. Quick recycling led to Albanians hands in the ruck, an early yellow car for Jack Micans, the Old Albanians number seven, and an easy 3 points for fullback Neil Hallett.
Within a minute of the re-start Ealing were back in the Old A’s 22 with a scrum near the touchline. Ealing scrum-half Morgan Thompson chose this moment for a little bit of magic. Standing facing infield he flicked the ball between his legs to release Phil Chesters on the blindside for a try in the corner. Albanians were able to get on the scoreboard with a penalty slotted by fullback Richard Gregg, but it was still mostly one-way traffic. On twenty minutes it was Chesters again after some neat football on the floor from Ealing’s aggressive Matt Evans. A ruck in front of the posts gave Ealing too many opportunities against a disrupted defence and once again Chesters crossed in the same spot. Hallet, who has had a great season with the boot so far, missed again from the touchline, but at 13-3 Old Albanians already looked like a beaten side. Just seven minutes later another scrum in the Old A 22 led to a brutally fast break and Peter Hodgkinson’s fifth try of the season. But Old A’s regained their composure and started to go through the phases, keeping the ball for some minutes, albeit in their own half. But with just 5 minutes to go until half time, Anders Nilsson charged down a kick for territory and dribbled the ball along the floor to score near the uprights. As Ealing went into half time 25-3 up, and with a try bonus point already secured, a large Vallis Way crown licked their lips and looked forward to more of the same in the second half.
After the break it was a new Old Albanians who took the field. For 10 minutes they had most of the ball and most of the pressure, until finally they broke down the Ealing defence through the midfield with a converted try from centre Johannes Lombaard. For a moment a fight-back did seem possible but Ealing came back with a relentless spell of pressure that finally released the other winger, Owen Bruynseels, to score in the corner. A final try, which will have hurt the Albanian scrum, as they were pushed most of ten yards back before Ben Ward simply had to pat the ball to secure a convincing 37-10 victory.
Mike Cudmore, Eaing coach said,
While Trailfinders were convincing at home the Jersey team were less so on their travels. Taunton, who Ealing beat at their ground in early October, put four tries away in the first half for a bonus point win against a very strong Jersey side. And it was bonus points that kept Southend at the top of the table. They lost to Clifton at home but got a losing bonus point and a try bonus point. Ealing finished the weekend in second place, just one point behind, with an away trip to second bottom Hinckley in prospect for the weekend. Southend have a difficult trip to Dings Crusaders while Jersey welcome struggling Newbury to their island fortress.