Ealing came mightily close to overcoming their old foes in the Middlesex Bowl, but after taking an early lead, being dominated for a period and then inching their way back into contention fell just short.
Playing on the 3G pitch for the second time this season after a long run of away fixtures in the Zoo Shield, a much-changed Ealing team edged the early exchanges, and after conceding three points for a penalty after just four minutes took the lead following an astute cross-field kick by fly-half Brendan Cleary. Joe Smith on the wing watched the awkwardly bouncing ball, picked up and fed Harry Craig, who crashed through an attempted tackle to score. The attempted conversion by scrum-half Chico U’Chong narrowly missed. The home side continued to press and came close to doubling their score when centre Luca Townshend set off on angled run and passed to Smith. The attack was snuffled out and Grasshoppers were able to relieve the pressure thanks to a penalty for offside. With 12 minutes on the clock U’Chong kicked a penalty to increase the lead to 8-3.
Grasshoppers reduced the deficit to 8-6, but Ealing left wing Naveed Hosseinmardi finished a fluent backs move with aplomb, U’Chong slotting a fine conversion. Around the quarter mark Grasshoppers scored following a barnstorming run by their rangy No 5. A few minutes later the same player touched down but the referee, advised by the line judge, ruled that he had not released when tacked just short of the line. Instead it was Ealing who were next to score, when U’Chong’s fast, flat pass set up Townshend for a fine run on a great angle, with just enough fuel left in the tank for a final burst of speed to take him past the last would-be tacklers. U’Chong converted to make the score 20-11. In what was to prove a crucial period leading up to half-time Ealing suffered a triple blow with a yellow card and injuries to Smith and full-back Verma, who was left dazed after a typically committed tackle. Just before the break the visitors reduced the deficit to 20-14 with a penalty in front of the posts.
Having had the better of the closing period of the first half and with increasing dominance of the set scrum by their heavy pack, Grasshoppers went straight back onto the attack after the re-start and took the lead with a converted try on the left wing. A few minutes later they ominously stretched their advantage after creating a three-on-one situation, again on the left wing, but were unable to convert after Sean Kerr had chased down the try-scorer to prevent him from going under the posts. Grasshoppers continued to pile on the points with a penalty and a forwards’ try, and had turned a deficit of 14-20 deficit into a 34-20 lead before Ealing finally started to turn back the tide. A run and kick ahead by substitute Jonathan McKeogh nearly led to a score, and shortly afterwards substitute centre Matt Killeen scored an excellent try, breaking through two attempted tackles and accelerating to the line.
With time running out, smooth passing along the backs nearly led to another try by Hosseinmardi, and prop Tim Hitchcock was on hand to pick up the loose ball and dive over for a score converted by U’Chong. Despite finishing the game on the attack, the hosts were unable to clinch victory at the end of a pulsating game.
This Saturday, 6 December, the Men’s 1sts take on leaders Redingensians II in Zoo Shield Division 3.
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