Ealing Trailfinders maintained their challenge to leaders Bristol with this five-try, bonus point win on a wet and gloomy Gloucestershire afternoon.
Two tries, coming immediately either side of the half time break, did the damage to a Hartpury side who had been very competitive for the first 40 minutes but who have now lost four games in succession.
Buoyed by a 14-point swing within three minutes of rugby, an improved Trailfinders were able to ease away through the second half as Hartpury struggled to recapture the rhythm they had demonstrated before the break.
After defending well against some early Ealing pressure, it was the hosts who opened the scoring with seven minutes played. A penalty was kicked into the Trailfinders 22 and a powerful effort from the Hartpury forwards saw hooker Will Tanner drive over.
However, the lead was short-lived as Ealing hit back within six minutes, lock Barney Maddison scoring in identical circumstances.
It was nip and tuck for a while, and it stayed level until the final action of the half when, after a spell of Hartpury pressure, Trailfinders worked themselves upfield and close enough for lock forward Harry Casson, a former Hartpury player, to bundle over.
Things got worse for the hosts early in the second half, when Ealing flanker Dan Temm was allowed to travel too far and hooker Alun Walker was on hand to score wide out. Luke Daniels added his third conversion from the touchline.
This ushered in a scrappy period of play when neither side could control the game sufficiently build sustained pressure.
The game was over as a contest when Ealing collected their bonus point in the 65th minute. Home skipper Rhys Oakley was carded for interfering at the breakdown and, from the penalty kicked to touch, the inevitable catch-and-drive saw Walker collect his second try of the half.
Hartpury did rally towards the end and might have had something from a big midfield break by debutant Tom Seabrook, but it was Trailfinders who had the final word when Rayn Smid scored with ten minutes to play.
Seabrook made a good impression on his first appearance for the club, although the MOTM award went to prop forward Alex Gibson who showed up well in all aspects of the game.
“If I’m being honest, Hartpury probably had the better of the first half and I felt that we weren’t working hard enough,” said Trailfinders Director of Rugby, Ben Ward.
“In the second half we came out with a very complete performance. We talked at half time about mixing our play a little bit more. We were able to apply pressure and that started to force the errors from them.”
Hartpury RFC: Wilcox, Smith, Seabrook, Eves, Sheldon, Williams (Con 8), Cochrane; Murphy, Tanner (Try 7), Gibson, Edwards, Beckett, Grieve, Gilbert, Oakley. Bench: Walker, Flook, Knight, Quinn, Dancer, Chapman, Perry
Ealing TF: Daniels (Cons 14, 40, 43), Harries, O’Conor, Munro, Cordy Redden, Clegg, James-Carter; Davis, Walker (Tries 42, 65), Tampin, Maddison (Try 13), Casson (Try 40), Temm, Smid (Try 70), Bright. Bench: Lawrence, Gibbons, Thiede, Jones, Allen, Hart, Robling.
Referee: C Ridley