Ealing Evergreens got back to winning ways on Saturday with a well deserved win away at Weybridge Vandals in the Surrey Vets League Division 1. The injured players list gets longer every week and on Friday I was concerned about how we would field a full XV but we managed to actually have two subs and everyone who played was in their chosen position which was a huge problem for us in our last two games.
Borrowed Exiles player Steve Richards combined with Ash Spencer and myself to make up the front row. As usual, Paul Clarke and Bill Miller the First were the second rows with Brendan O’Flaherty, Jamie Carlin and John Ronane in the back-row. Half backs were Dave Brathwaite and Bryn Worth. Centres Dave Steene and Paul Hoban with Eric Murray on one wing and Paul Lowen on the other. Full-back Simon Slattery completed a useful looking back-line. Subs were Mark Rutherford who replaced the injured Eric on the wing after 5 minutes and Bill Miller the Second (we need new nick-names) who came on for BOF in the second half.
When you play Weybridge you know you can expect a forward battle and we decided that the best plan of attack for us would be to give our backs the ball as much as possible and let them run everything. It was obvious after a few minutes that this was without doubt where we were best as Steeny, Paul H and Slatts carved open the Weybridge defence on several occasions but it wasn’t until half an hour into the game that we finally scored with Slatts again coming into the line well to glide through for a try which went unconverted. This was scant reward for all the rugby we had played but given the chances we were creating we knew that the scores would come if we stayed patient.
But instead we did the one thing you don’t want to do after scoring and that’s concede one yourself immediately after. To be fair to Weybridge they worked hard to create the try with a succession of drives and their two big strike runners were a constant threat throughout the game. Weybridge converted their try and we went into half-time behind 7 – 5. I wasn’t especially concerned at half-time as it was obvious that we had played more of the rugby. The main thing was to stop going high on their big runners because they were just boshing through and only the fantastic cover work of the back-row had been making up for it. Also, the big Weybridge pack looked to be tiring just a little bit more than us. I even described them as being “flahed”, a bit of Cork slang I don’t think I’ve used in 10 years! Only BOF knew what I meant.
The second half started with Weybridge scoring again through their big centre with possibly every member of the Ealing team missing a tackle on him. We then went to uncontested scrums when the Weybridge captain and tight-head went off injured. By now though it was all Ealing with Slatts adding two more tries to complete a hat-trick. Hmm, don’t think we saw a jug in the bar though? One of those tries was just a perfect execution of what our Plan A had been. Good rucking with quick ball to the backs, through the hands, Slatts coming with a great run into the line at half way and running in 40 yards beating the winger out wide. Bryn Worth added two more tries both celebrated with the most extravagant exhibition of diving since Jurgen Klinsmann retired. To be fair I think the first one was meant as two fingers to the defender who had just tried to take the head off him with a swinging arm.
But then came what had to be the best score of the game. Mine. I’m not sure there is anyone in the Ealing borough who hasn’t been talked through the try by me last night but I don’t mind repeating myself! At a lineout on the halfway line Ash Spencer signalled to me that he had seen the Weybridge line was out of position so we used a move we’ve had between us for years. A short throw to Ash saw him take off up the 5 yard line and bosh through the first tackler. Thirty yards to go and the full back was coming up to challenge Ash with me sprinting alongside screaming for the ball. Many years of playing with Ash meant that I knew he was probably thinking of chipping over the full back or something but he drew the full back and gave me the inside pass. Now I just had to turn on the gas (me? Gas?) and beat the cover defenders and then round the last one to touch down under the posts. Apparently Paul Clarke got so excited watching me and Ash that he broke into a gentle canter himself!
Steeny converted and though Weybridge scored a third try, we were convincing winners.
We played some really good rugby at times and other than the middle 20 minutes, we were in control of the game. Well done and thanks to Steve Richards for helping us out at prop. He did a fine job and will be welcomed back any time he likes. I thought our back row were fantastic again, all three putting in a huge amount of work around the field. But principally it was the class in our back line that made it such an enjoyable win. If Dave Steene could afford a set of studs for his boots he would surely have scored but he made a lot of great breaks and himself and Bryn combined really well with Bryn, despite probably being the smallest man on the field, proving a real handful for their defence. Slatts at full-back showed real class with the ball in hand and Weybridge never really figured out how to cope with his constant threat.
So a great away win at a venue where nothing comes easy and we can take great confidence from this result. If we had this back-line down at Barnes last week it would have been a different story. But we have the chance to prove that in two weeks when we have our first home game of the season against Esher on November 7th at Trailfinders, Vallis Way. Finally, thank you and well done to all the boys who played on Saturday. Two league wins out of three games means it’s all to play for in Division 1.
Ealing Evergreens – 34
Tries: Slattery (3), Worth (2), Cronin
Cons: Steene (2)