Hartpury – usually tight defensively – had to endure a nine-try hammering at the home of Ealing Trailfinders, as the hosts continued to hit their stride after a slightly tentative start to the season, writes Jenny Bates. This was Ealing’s fourth successive victory and it took them back to their accustomed spot of second in the Championship table – after Cornish Pirates were beaten by Coventry.
(Picture: Loose-head Des Merrey finds some space, courtesy LNC Images)
After a series of close games and a good win last weekend – against Coventry – this was a tough day at the office for Hartpury, as Trailfinders had the game wrapped up by the break, with the four-try bonus point also in the bag. Despite a second half score from Robbie Smith, the game got no better for the visitors, as they slipped to their heaviest defeat of the season.
Hartpury had rotated their squad coming into the game. This was the first of two extremely tough assignments – leaders Newcastle are the visitors to the Alpas next weekend – and one or two key players were rested. Seb Nagle-Taylor (illness) and Mike Flook (pulled calf) had been Friday withdrawals but, even at full-strength, Hartpury would have struggled to cope with the Trailfinders in this form.
Ealing are a full-time professional, powerful side and used their physicality well. They were ultimately rewarded with a further five second half scores, before referee Michael Hudson finally put the visitors out of their misery.
It took only two minutes for the Trailfinders to make their mark, with a try from Jordy Reid, converted by Craig Willis and, within the first quarter, they had doubled their advantage through Peter Lydon – a thorn in Hartpury’s side two weeks ago, when he was on loan at Bedford – who was able to scoot over off a five-metre scrum.
Hartpury did spend some time close to the Ealing line, but the home defence was up to the task and, when the Trailfinders went back on the attack, a penalty try was awarded after the visitors collapsed a powerful driving maul before it crossed the line.
Then, four minutes before the break, with Ealing winning turn-overs seemingly at will, the dangerous Reon Joseph went close before the ball was spun wide for Reid to pick up his second of the match.
Ealing fly half, Willis, continued to add the extra points. In all he converted seven of his team’s nine tries.
The second half began in identical fashion to the first, with Hartpury conceding an early score. This time, skipper Rayn Smid was under the posts after an attacking lineout produced lovely ball to have Hartpury in trouble.
Replacement hooker Matt Cornish then collected a double as Trailfinders continued to dominate – both from forward drives – but in between his two scores there was a rare moment of joy for the Red & Blacks.
Replacement Joshua Bragman used his boot to good effect, first to set up a line-out on halfway and next to prod the ball behind the home defence. Centre, Smith, who has made a good impact following his breakthrough into the Championship side, had the pace to beat Pat Howard to the ball.
In fact, Hartpury thought that they would add to the tally from an interception just minutes later, but play was brought back for off-side.
With Hartpury down to 14 after Jake Henry saw yellow, Ealing were able to drive the final nails into the coffin.
Replacement winger Levis Davis – who played a number of games for Hartpury in the 2016-17 season – scored the most eye-catching try of the day with a 50 metre sprint to the line, before centre Harry Sloan completed Hartpury’s misery with just a minute remaining.
Hartpury must now regroup before the visit of the Falcons, while Ealing will be hoping to build some pressure at the top and keep alive their hopes of a long-dreamt of promotion to the Premiership.
Ealing: Lydon (Try 16) Howard, Tovey, Sloan (Try 79), Joseph, Willis (Cons 3,37,43,56,71,74) Fowles; W Davis, Walker, Millar-Mills, West, Cannon, Buckley, Reid (Tries 2, 36) , Smid (Try 42). Bench: Cornish (Tries 55,70) Ellwood, G Davis, Dickinson, Korczyk, Hampson, Shingler, L Davis (Try 73). (Penalty Try 23)
Hartpury: Wilcox, Morris, Smith (Try 66), Margetts, Henry, Eden, Cochrane; Merrey, Crane, Armstrong, Hawkins, Safe, Graham, Clementson, Grieve. Bench: Tanner, Fry, Challenger, Wilson, Preece, Carter, Bragman, Reeves.
Referee: Michael Hudson