A last minute try from Southend’s second row Christopher Waring, converted by Simon Holt, gave Southend a draw in this pulsating National 2 South fixture at Southend’s Warners Bridge Road ground.
Southend recovered from a half time deficit of 19-10 after Ealing started the game brightly, forcing Southend into conceding two early penalties on 3 and 6 minutes , which centre Neil Hallett duly converted. Hallett had a superb day with the boot, unlike Southend’s Andy Frost, usually so reliable, who missed 4 attempts at goal.
Frost, got three points back for the home side on 18 minutes after an Ealing infrindgement to cut the deficit to 3-6.
Ealing began to take the initiative and pressed Southend onto the back foot with some wonderful phases of rugby, and it was on 26 minutes , that fly half Ben Ward, found a gap and went over under the posts from 15 meters out. Hallett adding the conversion to extend Ealing’s lead to 3-13.
Hallett added a further penalty 6 minutes later, 3-16. Straight from the kick off, Southend regained possession, and the ball was swept wide, to wing Andy Billings who crossed the Ealing line. Andy Frost converted, 10-16 with 7 minutes of the half remaining.
Hallett extended Ealing’s lead on 36 minutes, with a huge 40m effort, and that was the final scoring of the half. Half time 10-16.
Ealing would have been confident going into halftime with a lead against a team that started the season as many people’s bet for a top 3 finish, and it was helped when just 5 minutes into the second half, prop Dinos Alexopoulos burrowed over from close range to score Ealing’s second try . Hallett converted and the lead went out to 10-26.
Southend’s director of Rugby Andy Holloway, made a series of changes which seemed to spark the hosts into life. On 54 minutes following a flowing move, Billings crossed for his second try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed, but the score closed to 15-26. With a new lease of life, Southend pressed for another score. With an eye for a gap, a quick tap penalty by scrum half Sam Arnott , saw him dart down the blind side, off loading to Chris Green who scored. Replacement Simon Hoult converted and suddenly Southend were back in the game at 22-26.
In their eagerness to regain possession, Southend ended up conceding a penalty on 64 minutes. Hallett again on a day when he was faultless, again converted to extend the lead to 22-29 . Simon Hoult added one for the hosts on 72 minutes and with the score at 25-29 , the game could go either way. On 75 minutes referee, Shane Lewis, awarded a further penalty to Ealing, and Hallet again obliged. 25-32.
A frantic last 5 minutes ensued as Southend again pressed forward. It seemed that Ealing’s visit to Warners Bridge Road would result in a very good away win. Turning possession over close to the Ealing line, lock Chris Waring bundled over, Hoult converting and with it Mr Lewis ended the game with a shrill blast.
Come the end of the season will Ealing look back at the result as points lost of won?
Ealing Director of Rugby Mike Cudmore said "When you have a lead and lose it, it is always disappointing. Our control in the second half was not as efficient as the first and that put us under pressure. We had opportunities in the second half to put Southend under pressure but did not complete these. In time we will look back and probably feel two points is a good result" .
Man of the Match, Ealing centre, Markus Burcham said after the game, "it was a much improved team performance from the Richmond game saw us take control of the first half and pressure Southend. We played with real patience and took our opportunities through Hallets boot. The second half Southend were obviously desperate to get back into the game and through strong running got onto the front foot. We are pleased with how we held out under pressure for long periods but were disappointed to have conceded in the last minute. We will hopefully take the control and game management from the first half into next weeks game".
Ealing remain in 5th position on N2S, the league being led by undefeated Henley Hawks. Southend are second, whilst Jersey and Dings are just above Ealing Trailfinders.
Other games this weekend, saw Ealing’s 2nd XV beat Southend 2nd XV 42-12, to maintain their unbeaten start to the league season. The clubs Exiles beat London French 19-5 whilst on Sunday the Jades lost to Marlow Ladies 23-0.
Next weekend, Ealing are again on the road. This time the West Country and new comers Taunton RFC. Kick off is 3pm and all details can be found at www.tauntonrfc.co.uk.
Skipper Ben Ward said "Going away in this league is always tough. Mentally you have to be very focused and switched on. We are improving each week and building nicely. Taunton will provide another stern test and challenge for this team. We will be looking to work hard in training this week to prepare us for the weekend where we will be looking to pick up more points on the road".
15 – Pete Hodgkinson, 14 – Owen Bruynseels, 13- Markus Burcham, 12 – Neil Hallett,11- Phil Chesters, 10- Ben Ward ( Capt), 9 -Morgan Thompson , 1- Lewis Brown, 2- Jon Moyce , 3- Dinos Alexopolous, 4- Ryan Gregory, 5- James Winterbottom, 6-Lee Starling, 7- Jay King, 8 – Matt Evans
16 – Rob Buchanan, 17 – Sonny Kuwana, 18 – Gethin Davies, 19 – Blair Morris 20 – Joe Price