If there were any doubts about the stern test awaiting the Men’s 1sts following promotion to Zoo Shield Division 2 they were quickly dispelled in the first league game of the season at the well-appointed Shelford ground near Cambridge. However, the 42-13 scoreline fails to do justice to a spirited performance by a team containing several newcomers to the club, who achieved superiority in the set scrums and parity in the line-outs but conceded scores at the ends of both halves as the superior fitness of the hosts told.
Playing into the stiff breeze on a warm and sunny September day, Ealing pounded the Shelford line for the first ten minutes but were held out by stout defence, although they did take the lead with a penalty for offside by Steve Verma. The early lead was cancelled out by a penalty for not rolling away, before Ealing returned to the attack and were only stopped from scoring from a powerful rolling maul by colliding with an upright before the ball could be grounded. Soon afterwards the tide turned with a long kick downfield, after which the visitors remained pinned in their own half for a prolonged period. Shelford elected to kick a penalty to touch rather than take the three points, but when awarded a second opted for the posts and opened up a 6-3 lead. They then moved further ahead with two tries before the interval with Ealing down to 14 men, one by a powerful forward bursting through attempted tackles to score under the posts and another on the stroke of half time when slick passing along the backs created an overlap. With both tries converted, Shelford led at the break by 20 points to 3.
Fielding a number of new recruits being trialled with a view to elevation to the National League 3 first team, the hosts began the second half in confident mood despite playing into the strong breeze, and their wide, fast style of play led to another try, this time unconverted, soon after the resumption. Verma added a second penalty after a blatant offside in the centre, but with three-quarters of the game gone powerful running by the Shelford back line created another overlap and try, increasing the deficit to 32-6.
Ealing’s set scrum, in the ascendant throughout, drew a penalty try converted by Verma when the hosts deliberately collapsed, but any hopes of a late flourish were dashed as a tiring defence conceded two further tries.
Despite a heavy defeat, Ealing will take heart from a promising performance, and have a chance to secure their first league points of the season at home this Saturday against Colchester 2nds, who were involved in a high-scoring draw with London Irish Amateur Wanderers.
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