Brunel University 34 – 26 Ealing Trailfinders 1871 1sts

A large and vociferous crowd of around 300 witnessed a pulsating, intense game of rugby between the two already promoted teams in Counties 2 Herts & Middlesex, kicking off at 5 pm after the Championship game between Ealing Trailfinders and London Scottish. Ealing Trailfinders 1871 left nothing out on the field in a committed display, but fell to a close defeat by Brunel University for the second time this season, with three yellow cards, leaving them down to 14 men for 30 minutes of the game, and a spate of injuries proving crucial.

Things could not have got off to a worse start for 1871, with a knock-on from the kick-off on the left leading to a swift backs move and a try for Brunel out on the right wing, converted by Jack Thorn, whose long kicks were a key factor in the previous encounter at 10 but who on this occasion was playing at 15. The boys playing in the black away kit, the Brunel home game having been switched to Vallis Way, were undaunted by this early setback and quickly showed that they had the mettle to come back. With 7 minutes gone Alex Walker burst away from the half-way line with an outstanding straight run to the posts for one of the best tries of his team’s promotion-winning season. Harry Vidler converted to tie the scores. In making the try line despite a last-ditch tackle, Walker unfortunately suffered a facial injury and had to be replaced. It was Brunel who eventually secured the next score in a see-sawing game at the mid-way point of the first half, and a Thorn penalty 10 minutes later moved his team two scores ahead at 17-7. 1871 mounted another attack with the break approaching, Jack Hobbs finishing on the left wing after neat passing along the back line from the opposite side of the pitch. The students notched a psychologically important try before the half-time whistle with a third converted try, leaving the score at 24-12 with all to play for in the second period.

It was Ealing who scored first after the re-start, a dominant re-set scrum compelling the referee to go under the sticks to signal a penalty try. Just when it looked like they might move into the lead for the first time, 1871 conceded a fourth, bonus point-winning try by Brunel, converted to make the score 31-19, but Josh Steadman, now at scrum half after starting on the wing, added to his tally for the season with a conversion by Vidler. In a rousing finish with a score by either team likely to settle the contest, Thorn struck a monstrous drop-goal from 45 metres to increase the gap to 34-26, after which Ealing on several occasions threatened, roared on by the crowd, but were unable to add another score which would have secured a losing bonus point. A highly entertaining, at times brutal, encounter came to an end with Brunel taking over top spot in the table with one round of fixtures remaining. Ealing man of the match was flanker and vice-captain Will Day, who epitomised the fighting spirit of the whole 18-man squad.

With injuries to Laurence Troke, Devis Acellam, Alex Walker, Ben Parkinson and Darragh Sinnott, there will be some patching-up to be done before the last league game, against St Albans after Easter, followed by the first round of the Papa John’s Cup, with the long trip to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex.

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