Ealing Trailfinders returned from Jersey with nothing to show for their efforts as a 76 minute try for the hosts by second row Nathan Hannay denied Ealing a losing bonus point in this top of the table clash in National 2 South.
Ealing’s Director of Rugby, Mike Cudmore, had few complaints after the game, although clearly disappointed that his team had missed out on the losing bonus point. "We wanted something to show for it, but having said that it wasn’t a cup final, just one more game out of 30".
Indeed this season whoever wins National 2 South will have a few tricky moments, and it will be doubtful that any team will go through the season undefeated.
The day started with strong winds and showers throughout the morning, and indeed the wind was to prove a vital factor in the days events.
Ealing won the toss, and elected to play into the wind in the first half. An early penalty by fly half Michael Le Bourgeois put the home side into the lead on 8 minutes, and this was extended as new signing David Doherty raced clear of the Ealing defence. Le Bourgeois added the conversion and Jersey were 10-0 ahead after 17 minutes gone on the clock.
Ealing came straight back at their hosts, and their defence held Jersey at bay. Up front Ealing held the much heralded Jersey pack, and were creating opportunities themselves. On 20 minutes a trademark cross field kick by Ben Ward found Phil Chesters, but the flying wing was held up just short of the line.
Ealing’s defence turned the ball over in midfield, the ball was shipped out to Phil Chesters, and he added to his tally for the season on 30 minutes. Neils Hallett’s conversion into the wind was missed. Le Bourgeois added a further penalty just before the break to take the home side into the break 13-5 ahead.
At half time Ealing felt they had played the conditions well. Skipper Ben Ward said "We felt going into half time we were in a good position to turn with the strong wind. However Jersey played the second half well and we underperformed in this period."
Going into the second half with the wind at their backs, the Ealing forwards would have been hoping to spend a large proportion of the half embedded in the Jersey 22m area. But it was the home side who showed great control of the ball playing into the wind in the second half, and had the majority of possession that meant that Ealing were forced into attacking from deep positions.
Jersey made some changes and looked to play a limited but highly effective game plan going into the second half. Their ball carriers began to apply the pressure, meaning that Ealing defence had to be on their guard continually. A series of drives by the Jersey front five, lead to a scrum just short of the Ealing line, it collapsed for the first time, and referee Andrew Vaughan signalled a penalty try to the home side, and left the Ealing players looking slightly bemused at the decision made so quickly.
Ealing came back strongly and were awarded a penalty for offside, which Neil Hallett struck over to bring the score back to 20-11 after 52 minutes.
A series of drives lead to a defining moment for the visitors, as Ealing wing Owen Bruynseels being awarded a yellow card for coming in at the side. At the re scrum replacement number 8, Nick Thrower crashed over to extend the home side’s lead to 25-11.
Ealing looked to use their pace on the wings and the ball found Phil Chesters, who would have gone the length of the pitch but for the pass to have been adjudged forward by the linesman Mike Wells.
Ealing looked to increase the pressure on Jersey, and after a yellow card was shown to replacement back row Russell Holland for persistently killing the ball, Ealing’s Sonny Kuwana went over for the try, Hallett converted and with 7 minutes remaining Ealing were hopeful of taking something from the game.
The most bizarre moment of the game was still to come, and one that left both players and spectators scratching their heads. From a restart on half way by Michael Le Bourgeois the ball was taken back by the wind, did it go the required 10m? Le Bourgeois didn’t wait to find out, he collected his own kick and going deep into Ealing’s territory, a series of drives by their pack, saw Nathan Hannay cross for the home sides 4 try of the day, Le Bourgeois converted.
Mike Cudmore added "The conditions were very difficult with the wind and rain, and it played a major factor in the game. We played into it in the first half and worked hard and came in at half time eight points behind which considering the conditions we all felt was a good half. We were clear on what we needed to do in the second period but some decisions did not go our way, we did not control the game or manipulate the conditions well enough and Jersey’s exit plays were very good and they took their opportunities well. The team worked hard and gave their all and unfortunately sometimes that still is not enough to get anything from a game. We play thirty games in a season and this is just one of them. I am looking forward to this weeks training and our home game against Old Albanians"
Skipper Ben Ward was philosophical after the game. "As is the way in league rugby it is our jobs to get back to working hard on the training field, put this game behind us and learn from where it went wrong. This Saturday we have to be very switched on to a dangerous Old Albanians team."
Ealing return to Vallis Way this weekend, to face newly promoted Old Albanians. Kick off is 2.30pm.
15 – Neil Hallett 14 – Owen Bruynseels 13 – Pete Hodgkinson 12 – Joe Price 11 – Phil Chesters 10 – Ben Ward (C) 9- Ian Martin 1 – Lewis Brown 2 – Jon Moyce 3 – Dinos Alexopoulos 4 – Jack Fishwick 5 – James Winter bottom 6 – Lee Starling 7 – Jay King 8 – Mat Evans
16 – Steve Neville 17 – Sungo Kuwana 18 – Anders Nilsson 19 – Karl Gibson 20 – Paddy Gill