A twenty-six point deficit after the opening quarter of an hour was exactly what Hartpury did not need on their visit to one of the Championship’s strongest teams.
The score over the remaining 65 minutes was actually 36-28 to the visitors, but the damage done during the opening to this match was more than the Red & Blacks could repair, on a warm and sunny West London afternoon.
Hartpury were showing a number of changes from last week’s narrow, last-minute minute defeat to the Bedford Blues. Harry Randall was unavailable and was replaced by Charlie Chapman at scrum half, while a work injury meant that George Boulton was also ruled out. Ed Sheldon and Harry Cochrane played on the wings, while Ed Coulson started at 13.
Ciaran Knight made a first start for the club at tight-head and there was a return to the starting line-up for Joe Quinn at lock.
A barrage of four tries in the early minutes of the game had Hartpury on their heels.
An early penalty was kicked to the corner before Ealing hooker Alun Walker added to his impressive tally for the season by finishing the drive. Hartpury then built some early pressure of their own but a loose pass in midfield gave flanker Rayn Smid the chance to intercept and run in from deep in his own territory.
Slick handling and strong running next created scores for winger James Cordy-Redden and full-back Luke Daniels and, with Daniels converting three out of four, it was 26-0 before Hartpury had time to gather themselves.
To their credit, the visitors did not fold. James Williams opened their account with a simple penalty in the 20th minute and Knight smashed his way over shortly afterwards.
Ealing were awarded a penalty try by referee Tim Wigglesworth after a series of attacking scrums but, with home flanker Dan Temm being sent to the bin, Alex Craig (pictured) narrowed the gap with his first try of the game on the stroke of half-time, to make it 33-17 at the break.
Hartpury started the second half brightly and, improbably, had closed the gap to just four points by the 45th minute.
First, some direct running and good hands allowed Chapman to release Craig to finish under the posts from twenty metres for a really good team try, before a powerful lineout drive from all of fifteen metres allowed Will Tanner to get the final touch.
At this stage, Hartpury were bossing the game and, with the prospect of an unlikely upset looming, the hosts were looking slightly rattled.
A further score for the visitors at this point might have turned the tables completely, but Trailfinders produced another fifteen minute power-play to re-establish their control.
This time it was all about forward strength as replacements Oli Stedman and Lewis Thiede scored from close range, before Walker doubled his tally in the 63rd minute. Daniels was consistent from the tee to restore a comfortable cushion for the hosts.
With the result largely settled, the game lost some of its shape in the final quarter.
James Williams had been a bright presence all afternoon for the Red & Blacks and got a deserved try with 10 minutes remaining.
Loose play in the Ealing midfield gave him the chance to hack through from half-way and some further dribbling saw the ball into the in-goal area. The bounce beat the Ealing cover and Williams was there to finish under the posts. His conversion ended the scoring.
Hartpury now have a week off, before their final game of the season at home to champions Bristol on April 28th.
Ealing: Daniels (Try 15. Cons 3, 12, 15, 52, 59, 64), Stegman, O’Conor, Munro, Cordy-Redden (Try 11), O’Leary, James-Carter; Gibbons, Walker (Tries 2, 63), Tampin, Curry, Jones, Temm, Smid (Try 6), Murphy. Bench: Lawrence, Davis, Thiede (Try 58), Stedman (Try 51), Bright, Grant-Adamson, Lydon.
Hartpury: Wilcox, Cochrane, Coulson, Eves, Sheldon, Williams (Try 72. Cons 25, 40, 43, 73. Pen 20) , Chapman; Murphy, Tanner (Try 45), Knight (Try 24), Quinn, Craig (Tries 39, 42), Grieve, Langley, Dyer. Bench: Crane, Flook, Harden, So’oialo-Chan, Hinkley, Carpenter, Holden.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth