Ealng Exiles’ valiant efforts couldn’t quite pull off the Middlesex Merit Table Division 5 final win. Jez Inson reports for the support crew.
Ealing Exiles’ league season didn’t quite end in the way the team would have wanted, with a 15-12 loss to Twickenham IIIs in the Middlesex Merit Table final, but the performance of the team on the field was one all involved can be proud of.
On the sidelines around 50 supporters made up of fellow players, friends, families and future Exiles napping in their prams showed that the spirit of the team is in excellent shape and sure to underpin our endeavours for the rest of this season, next year and many more after it.
The build up to this match was unlike any in recent memory as Alex and Nick were still sweating over selection issues post-training on Thursday.
In the end they opted for a front row of Marc H, Fabio and Steve Richards, John Moore and Eff in the engine room and captain Nick packing down on the blind side, in a back row completed by big Julian at 8 and young Tom on the openside.
Behind the scrum Andy Johnson and Simon linked up in the halves. Welsh Nick and Alex were in the centres, with Clive and Mark T on the wings and James H at fullback.
After a thorough warm up from Dyll and Churchillian words of inspiration from Alex and Nick the chosen XV were primed and ready for the next 80 minutes.
Three minutes in and the best laid plans were torn asunder as the Exiles were forced into a change. James H took a heavy knock on his knee after taking a high ball and dragged himself from the fray.
Andy Madden was ready though and slipped seamlessly into the fullback’s role as if to the manner born. Throughout his time on the pitch he was secure under the high ball and used his strength well to buy the forwards time to regroup whenever Twickenham kicked into Exiles’ territory.
The first 20 minutes were fairly scrappy with neither team able to build any rhythm or dominate possession. That said the Exiles edged it slightly in terms of territory, while we were up in the penalty count.
Even so with the wind at our backs and attacking down the slope the Exiles were unable to find a way through the Twickenham defence. On the wing Clive was throwing himself at the Twickenham line whenever he could and scragged down their runners whenever they tried to attack.
The Twickenham flyhalf was a tricky runner and their outside centre also made a dangerous run midway through the first half, but the Exiles scramble defence was able to halt the danger.
Eventually the Exiles made a break through. Following a number of forward drives at the Twickenham line, the ball came left and scrumhalf Andy popped a delicate pass into the hands of an onrushing John Moore for the big Irishman to power over. Simon added the conversion with a well struck kick to put the men in white and green seven points to the good.
It appeared that we would go in 7-0 up at the break, but the Twickenham scrumhalf found the space to wriggle through the Exiles defence and go in under the posts just before the halftime whistle.
Remarkably though they didn’t add the conversion after Nick took one in the face for the team with a charge down that showed the determination of the team to win the match.
At the break Greg replaced Marc H at tight-head prop and Eff roused the troops with a speech that relied heavily on certain classic Anglo-Saxon words and then it was back to it.
Again the match started in scrappy fashion with Twickenham dominating territory and possession, but out of nowhere the Exiles grabbed their second try when Simon sniffed out a gap and charged over from beyond the halfway line. Again the ghost of Don Fox (look him up on youtube if you’re not sure who he is) came back as Simon failed to add the conversion.
With the heavy going taking its toll fresh legs were called for. Jonathan Keogh came on for Julian and T came off the bench for Eff, whose knee had got the better of him.
Eff on the rampage!
It wasn’t enough to stop Twickenham drawing level when their left wing stepped inside the defence and their kicker made a better fist of his conversion than his earlier effort.
With legs tiring rapidly, the Exiles were unable to find a way out of their own half. Twice Twickenham opted to kick penalties, but pulled one wide then hit the post with a second.
It was third time lucky for them though, when five minutes from time their flyhalf kicked them into the lead for the first time in the match.
With the whistle in the referee’s mouth, Twickenham won a lineout and appeared to secure their win with a catch, set and kick it as far off the field as possible. They hadn’t counted on Fabio though who threw himself at the scrumhalf to charge down the kick, but in the desperation to get a white shirted pair of hands on the ball, it was knocked on and with it came full time.
After the presentation ceremony at the grounds it was off to The Foresters in Northfields for the post-match piss up to end post-match piss up.
Tom took a well-deserved man of the match for his boundless energy on the flank, though honourable mentions should go to Clive, who rolled back the years, John Moore and Welsh Nick in the centres.
From there Sodom and Gomorrah quickly descended on that sleepy little suburb in west London, with the Exiles spirit to the fore in a night that will go down in Exiles’ folklore for everyone who was there.
- John Moore
- Simon Tyler
- Simon Tyler
1 Steve Richards
2 Fabio Krasniqi
3 Marc Hubbard
4 Antony Lynch
5 John Moore
6 Nick Greenhalgh (Captain)
7 Tom Bignell
8 Julian Sweeny
9 Andrew Johnston
10 Simon Tyler
11 Mark Thompson
12 Nick Davies
13 Alex Kruczkowski
14 Clive Lungley
15 James Hitchcock
16 Greg Life
17 Gautam Tamang
18 Jonathan McKeogh
19 Andrew Madden
20 Neal Craig