Ealing Men’s 1sts launched their Zoo Shield Division 3 campaign with an emphatic victory over Esher, outscoring their opponents by six tries to two.
After a well contested opening period Ealing gradually began to dominate proceedings and put the first points on the board in time-honoured fashion with a clean lineout catch by Sean Kennett following a penalty against Esher for offside and an unstoppable driven maul, with second row John Worthington claiming the try. The conversion attempt by full-back Steve Verma went narrowly wide. Ealing continued to dictate for the remainder of the first quarter but were unable to prise open the defence, due in part to consistent offside going unpunished. With 25 minutes on the clock a promising attack by the Ealing back line seemed to have come to a halt when the ball was knocked out of centre Alex Hazell’s grasp, but he re-gathered and fed returning wing Hugh Williams, who finished with aplomb wide out on the right. A fine conversion by Verma left Ealing well placed at 12-0. Five minutes later Hazell was on the score sheet himself, crashing over from a well-timed pass by debutant ex-Academy scrum half Will Isaac, with Verma again adding the conversion. For the remainder of the first half the Men of Ealing had to call on their defensive skills, an excellent last-ditch tackle by Isaac preventing a try on the right wing and centre Sean Kerr preventing another by outpacing his opposite number to touch the ball down following a dangerous grubber kick.
With Daniel Martin coming on for his debut to replace flanker Stuart Miller, Ealing continued to look threatening after the break, with Hazell running excellent lines and returning prop Patrizio Bancher consistently punching holes in the opposition defence with bullocking runs. Ten minutes into the half Mike Whitney, playing prop for the day, appeared to score a perfectly good try from a driven maul but the referee was unsighted and awarded a scrum, from which No 8 Adam Hulmston fed Williams, who squeezed in at the corner for an uncoverted try.
An uncharacteristic period of loose play and missed tackles shortly afterwards enabled the young and enthusiastic Esher side to cut the deficit to 24-7 with a try on the left wing, but the 24-point difference was restored when hooker Liam McDonagh scored with an outrageous double side-step following a strong run by Kennett, linking with Chris Joyce. Verma converted, and with 15 minutes remaining spotted a gaping hole and danced over the line without any Esher player laying a finger on him, converting his own try. Esher reduced the deficit again with a fine try by their scrum half while Ealing were down to 14 men, flanker Harry Craig having been yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle while a retaliatory punch to the back of the head went unpunished.
This Saturday, 27 September, the Men’s 1sts travel to Putney to play London Cornish, hoping to erase the memory of defeat at the same ground last year, one of only three league losses all season.