The disappointment of a cryoff by Richmond Normans in the Raging Bull Shield Division 2 was overcome with the late arrangement of a friendly against RFU London Division 2 side Fullerians, who would provide a useful taste of the standard of rugby played at Level 7 of the league hierarchy, three levels higher than Herts Middlesex 2 where Ealing 1871 1sts are spending their first season in the national league structure.
Ealing began strongly, gaining possession from their own kick-off with a big hit on the catcher, and spent the first 5 minutes on the attack. However, Fullerians withstood the pressure and eventually won a penalty for not releasing in the tackle, the first of what was to prove to be a high number of transgressions by the visitors in the first half mostly due to accurate but passive tackling which enabled the Watford-based side to win crucial turnover ball.
On 11 minutes Fullerians stole an Ealing lineout and eventually worked an overlap for a try on the wing. Two long raking kicks by full-back Lewis Steadman put Ealing back on the attack, but a penalty for a late tackle enabled Fullerians to relieve the pressure. The heavy home pack began to turn the screw by shunting the Ealing forwards back in the set piece, and a collapsed scrum led to the award of a penalty try. Despite repeatedly sliding back on a heavy pitch, the Ealing forwards did not concede any further penalties in the set piece, but with the break approaching Fullerians took full advantage of hesitancy among the Ealing forwards, their No 7 picking up a loose ball and accelerating to the posts for a converted try. The fight-back began as the first 40 minutes drew to a close. From a penalty moved 10 metres closer to the Fullerians line for dissent, quick passing put Steadman into space for an unconverted try wide out on the left.
Ealing turned around 19-5 down after a first half in which they had perhaps paid their opponents too much respect, but the second period proved to be a different matter, with steadier scrums and greater fluency throughout the side. The visitors enjoyed long periods of territorial dominance and could themselves have been awarded a couple of penalty tries. Finally on 75 minutes the Fullerians defence was breached after a stream of possession from scrums, lineouts and rucks, with No 8 Kairo Rodrigo-Payne touching down for a try well converted by fly-half Enrico Rolfo. A few minutes later Ealing moved within 2 points of their opponents with a fine try to Nathan Oti. The conversion attempt from half-way out, which if successful would have snatched a draw, was missed, bringing to an end a match which ultimately brought a strong performance after a disappointing first half.
Team: Andrew Barton, Albert Stoute, Thomas Szyszko, Joshua Goddard, Sam Lindsay, Liam Woolford, Euan Jones, Kairo Rodrigo-Payne, Lucas Brathwaite, Enrico Rolfo, Jack Marsh, Stan Duhamel, Kenenna Chukwuma, Phil Done, Lewis Steadman. Replacements: Evan Poole, Fabio Krasniqi, David Niven, Alex Gillespie, Jacob Pepper, Nathan Oti
This Saturday, 7 December, Ealing 1871 1sts are away to Watford in Herts Middlesex 2, while the U23s face Bracknell 2nd XV at home in the Raging Bull Shield.
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