Rosslyn Park 16 - Ealing Trailfinders 17
Heartbreak for Park as late try gives title rivals narrow victory
A late penalty try, with Park down to 14 men, won the game for Ealing’s full-timers, but Park could hold their heads high at the end of a magnificent match that could easily have graced a higher division. Both sides gave everything in front of a large crowd at Priory Lane on 13th December.
Park did most of the early attacking, fly half Louis Grimoldby kicking them to the 22, but they were penalised at a scrum. Back on the attack Park gained a penalty 12 metres inside the Ealing half, but Grimoldby slipped on contact and the ball finished harmlessly short and wide.
While Park did most early attacking, Ealing’s defence looked impregnable. But they conceded Grimoldby another chance on 15 minutes and this time his footing held firm to give his side a 3-0 lead.
Ealing’s response showed why they are top of the league. A good attack up the left saw prop Jamie Kilbane pop up out wide to receive a pass and power over in the corner. Fly half Ben Ward failed narrowly to make the conversion, but the visitors had snatched the lead by 5-3 on 19 minutes.
The commitment from both sides was at the highest level, both putting in some bone-shaking tackles. Despite this, there were some impressive passing movements in a thoroughly absorbing match. Grimoldby had a chance to restore Park’s lead on 24 minutes but, again, in the muddy conditions his pivoting leg slipped from under him.
With Park giving their all to establish a half time lead, the referee concluded that some of the visitors’ tackling was getting a bit too reckless. As half-time beckoned visiting prop Nathan Buck was sin-binned for a shoulder tackle and fellow prop Kilbane joined him in the naughty corner on the stroke of half-time for persistent fouling. With the whistle due to go, there was no time to kick to the corner to set up the drive against Ealing’s reduced numbers. Grimoldby kicked the penalty for a slender 6-5 interval lead for the home side.
Ealing used attack as the best means of defence, starting the second half with only 13 men. A good raid was bundled into touch by Park’s keen defence.
Park gave their all, but Ealing organised themselves very well and restricted the home side to a single penalty, stroked over by Grimoldby, before they were restored to full strength. That took the score to 9-5 on 48 minutes.
Ealing were soon on the attack. A penalty kicked to touch did not make much ground, but that detail was rendered irrelevant when the ball was worked wide to top-scoring winger Phil Chesters. Every team knows what Chesters can do, but few have found a way to stop him. He powered away at speed to score in the corner to edge Ealing ahead by 10-9 on 55 minutes.
Park coach Alex Codling had been cleverly deploying the ‘rolling subs’ rule to keep his front row fresh against the massive visiting scrum. But it was the introduction of fresh legs in the form of flanker Harry Broadbent that seemed to be finding holes that were not there before. Park launched a magnificent attack, working the ball from one side to the other and back again. Just as it looked as if Ealing had ridden Park’s best punch, hooker Adam Bellamy stretched to put the ball over the line. Grimoldby converted for 16-10 on the hour.
Two superb teams went at it hammer and tongs. A serious Ealing raid saw a tremendous clearance from replacement fly half Scott Sneddon. Park countered with an attack up the right that was snuffed out just short of the line; then one up the left that saw them penalised as they worked the ball across.
As the clock wound down Park stopped an Ealing raid at the cost of a penalty. They failed to retreat quickly enough for the referee’s liking and Sam Shires was dispatched to the bin. Needing a converted try, Ealing propelled the ball to the corner. The resulting throw appeared not to be straight (the Ealing catcher having to reach back for it) but Park defended it anyway, eventually leading to a knock-on at the edge of the 22. Someone must have said something rude to the referee – possibly about the throw - because he awarded a penalty instead.
This time Ealing made no mistake, setting up a magnificent drive towards the corner then, presumably thinking of their kicker, in towards the posts. Park pulled it down and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try. Fly half Ben Ward completed formalities with the conversion.
With the match already into added time, Park tried desperately to claw their way back. Attacking up the left, Sneddon launched a long cross-kick for his right-winger but the ball went dead. Park recaptured it and attacked up the right, but when they were harried into a knock–on the referee blew for full-time.
The result leaves Park four points adrift of Ealing but, with half of the season left to play, by no means out of contention.
Park: Edwards; Vincent, Richards, Mama, Broughton; Grimoldby; Carter; Liffchak, Bellamy, MacKenzie; Bowley, Boyle; McFarlane, Shires, Ellis.
December 15, 2014