The Reds tasted defeat for the first time in six months as the two previously unbeaten tier two sides in both league and cup clashed at Vallis Way.
An eagerly-awaited tie, played in bright, dry conditions on Ealing Trailfinders’ artificial surface, saw an eventful start. Russell Bennett opened the scoring with an early penalty but was soon cooling his heels on the sidelines, yellow-carded for bringing down a maul while the hosts were awarded a penalty try.
Being a man down didn’t stop the Reds from showing attacking intent, and some excellent handling, with both forwards and backs involved, worked the ball to James Scott for the lock’s second try in eight days. James Mitchell slotted the conversion in Bennett’s absence and the visitors had regained a three-point lead.
Although Craig Willis levelled the match just before the mid-point of the first half, the Reds were looking strong, and achieved the upper hand in the set piece. Both sides had chances, but solid defence meant the only other score before half-time was a Bennett penalty. Brendan Owen and Ben Woollett looked to combine for the Reds’ best chance of a try, but a cross-kick by the South African just didn’t bounce right for the Australian.
The key stage of the game came soon after half-time, with the home side breaching the previously solid Red defence twice in six minutes, first via an attacking maul finished by Shaun Malton, and the centre Pat Howard crashing through.
Unusually the final half-hour of the game was scoreless as neither side was able to break their opponents’ defensive line. The Reds were making little progress via their usually strong lineout drives, including a late foray into Ealing’s 22, while Bennett was unable to land a shot at goal in the 75th minute.
The Reds returned from London disappointed to have finished just short of a losing bonus point, albeit with the minor consolation of being the first team 10 games so far this season to prevent Ealing registering a bonus point.
Halfway through the group stage of this season’s Championship Cup, the Londoners lead pool A with 14 points to their rivals’ 10, while Hartpury beat Nottingham in the other game and have six points. The Reds will host Ealing when the cup resumes in early February, but after a week off the focus will switch to league action, with four Championship games scheduled during Advent, starting with Richmond’s visit to Stade Santander International on Saturday December 3rd.
EALING TRAILFINDERS: Jonah Holmes; Luke Daniels, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, Pat Howard, Cian Kelleher; Craig Willis, Craig Hampson; Kyle Whyte, Shaun Malton, Lewis Thiede, David O'Connor, Barney Maddison (capt), Rob Farrar, Carlo Tizzano, Rayn Smid.
Replacements (all used): Kevin O'Byrne, Will Davis, Jimmy Roots, Danny Cutmore, Simon Uzokwe; Jordan Burns, Steven Shingler, Jack Digby
JERSEY REDS: Brendan Owen (Scott Van Breda 62); Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate (Dan Barnes 62), Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett (YC 7), James Mitchell (James Elliott 51); Sam Grahamslaw (Greg McGrath 54), Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris (Eoghan Clarke 49), Steve Longwell (Adam Nicol 49), Sean O’Connor, James Scott (Hamish Bain h-t), Macauley Cook, Lewis Wynne (capt), Max Argyle (Hallam Chapman 66).
REFEREE: Simon Harding. Assistants: James Clarke, Jamie Leahy
Half Time: 10-13
Tries: Penalty Try 7, Malton 45, Howard 50
Conversion: Willis 50
Penalty: Willis 17
Try: Scott 10
Conversion: Mitchell 10
Penalties: Bennett 5, 33
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