The Reds scored six tries in an impressive display to earn maximum points at Vallis Way – their first win at Ealing Trailfinders’ home ground since January 2012.
It was almost the perfect start to the Championship Cup campaign for the Island side, with just the minor disappointment of conceding 10 late points that enabled the hosts to claim a brace of bonus points in defeat.
There was little to choose between the sides in the first half. The visitors attacked straight from the off and when Leroy Atalifo burst from a ruck, the Fijian prop looked like he might have been able to make the line rather than looking for support. But this was a temporary reprieve for Ealing, as an early penalty concession meant a chance for the Reds’ rolling maul to be wheeled out, and Charlie Maddison crossed.
Within two minutes Auguy Slowik had seized on a loose pass just outside his own 22-metre line, picked up the ball on the bounce and raced to the line.
Facing a 12-point deficit, Ealing responded by showing their attacking potency and scored 17 points in a 15-minute burst to take the lead. Argentine full-back Segundo Tuculet crossed for a try set up by a good Pat Howard break, Sam Olver added a conversion and a penalty, and then converted a try from close range by prop Jake Ellwood, who grounded the ball against a post.
The Reds were forced to make two changes before the break – Apakuki Ma’afu on for Jason Worrall after the latter was laid out in executing a crunching tackle, and Maddison to a left arm or shoulder injury. Replacement hooker Nick Selway showed he was equally capable at lineout and maul time, and crossed on the stroke of half-time to level the scores (both in the match at 17-apiece, and in tries with Maddison having each scored five thus far this season). The try came against 14 men, soon after Trailfinders’ back-row man Kieran Murphy had been sent to the sin-bin for illegally killing the ball.
Looking to make the most of their advantage and get back in front, the Reds started strongly after the resumption. James Newey, having moved out to the wing after Worrall’s departure, went agonisingly close in the corner after a break by Auguy Slowik, and soon afterwards Ealing were penalised for a lifting tackle on Mark Best judged dangerous by referee JP Doyle, the Premiership referee drafted in after illness for initial appointee Mike Hudson. After the maul initially looked to lose momentum, Charlie Beckett took possession and went over from close range for his first Jersey try.
Ealing’s attempt to get back into the game saw Tuculet charge forward, but his no-look inside pass only found Janco Venter and the back row man charged forward to half-way, where he found Leroy Van Dam, who had the gas to race to the corner to score.
The Reds’ replacements were making an impact, with Kyle Hatherell announcing himself with a charging run through the middle from a Trailfinders’ lineout stolen by Venter (and his lifters). Brett Herron took the ball on, and then Mark Best finished the job from close range.
After conceding 21 unanswered points, the home team were shocked into action, with some more good impact from a replacement; Irish prop Ben Betts gained valuable yards and then popped up three phases later to finish by the posts.
In seeking to nail down the win, Herron tried a drop goal, which went wide; Van Dam followed up and claimed a try, the home side said the drop-kick had bounced back from behind the dead-ball line, but the officials gave Ealing a scrum for an alleged knock-on, one of the day’s more dubious decisions.
Herron’s 74th-minute penalty increased the chances of a perfect 0-5 win on points, but the hosts were not to be denied. Lock Jordan Onojaife ploughed over for their fourth try, and when Jersey skipper Jerry Sexton was penalised for a high tackle, Olver completed a perfect day from the tee with a 45-metre, last-kick penalty to reduce the winning margin to seven and earn a second bonus point that may yet prove useful as Pool 2 plays out over the next five weeks.
Ealing Trailfinders (1-15)
Jake Ellwood, Alun Walker, George Davis, Jordan Onojaife, Harry Casson, Kieran Murphy (YC 37), Andrew Durutalo, Ray Smid (capt); Ryan Foley, Sam Olver; Seb Stegmann, Pat Howard, Lewis Jones, Howard Packman, Segundo Tuculet.
Replacements: Ben Betts (for Davis, 46 mins), Ben West (Casson 54), Laurence May (Tuculet 54), Matt Cornish (Walker 54), Jordan Burns (Foley 61), Alex Lundberg (Ellwood 61), Rohan O’Regan (Durutalo 70)
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Roy Godfrey, Charlie Maddison, Leeroy Atalifo, Jerry Sexton (capt), Charlie Beckett, Max Argyle, Rory Bartle, Janco Venter; Will Homer, Brett Herron; Leroy Van Dam, Mark Best, James Newey, Jason Worrall; Auguy Slowik.
Replacements: Apakuki Ma’afu (for Best 10-20 mins HIA), Nick Selway (Maddison 29), Ma’afu (Worrall 31), Sam Rodman (Atalifo h-t), Kyle Hatherell (Argyle 54), Dave McKern (Beckett 61), Calum Waters (Newey 61), Harry Morley (Godfrey 64), Newey (Van Dam 79 HIA)
REFEREE: JP Doyle. Assistants: Phil Watters, Gregory Garner
Half Time: 17-17
Tries: Tuculet 19, Ellwood 33, Betts 64, Onojaife 76
Conversions: Olver 19, 33, 64, 76
Penalties: Olver 28, 80
Tries: Maddison 7, Slowik 9, Selway 40, Beckett 46, Van Dam 52, Best 62
Conversions: Herron 9, 46, 52, 62
Penalty: Herron 74