Jersey Reds stood toe-to-toe with a powerful Ealing side and claimed a deserved brace of bonus points thanks to a late try.
The visitors, who made the trip to west London as a day-trip, expected a tough afternoon against the Championship-leading hosts, who are favourites for promotion and had not lost a league match to any of their current Championship rivals since the defeat to Cornish Pirates in December 2016.
After fly-half Sam Leeming gave the Reds an early lead, his opposite number Steve Shingler crossed for the opening try and added a conversion.
The visitors were looking dangerous in attack and a run from Ryan Olowofela could have led to a try for fellow winger Will Brown, but the pass could not be completed. Sadly Olowofela was injured and had to withdraw from the fray, with Harry Simmons coming on.
Showing an ability to trouble the home side and force penalty concessions, the Reds worked their way into scoring positions and claimed two tries in four minutes, firstly when Lewis Wynne darted over and then with a powerful close-range burst by Steve Longwell.
It looked as if a useful eight-point lead might be maintained until the break, but in fact the Trailfinders struck late on – Shingler kicked through and when Brendan Owen couldn’t deal with the bouncing ball Luke Daniels was in position to claim a try.
With some assistance from the wind after the game resumed, Ealing took the lead when Shaun Malton steered a maul over the line, but the Reds soon responded in kind – this time it was a penalty try and Malton was dispatched to the sin-bin, making it 21-22 with 25 minutes to play.
The Reds might have stretched their lead during a phase of attack, but an interception saw Simon Uzokwe race 50 metres for a try that signaled a real change of momentum.
The visitors, who had emptied their bench prior to the hour mark, were battling to stay in the game and lost replacement Alex Humfrey to the sin-bin after a series of penalties brought a warning from ‘Sir’ about persistent offence. Soon afterwards scrum-half Craig Hampson worked his way over and a 13-point lead for the hosts was the biggest gap between the sides all afternoon.
To their credit the Reds stayed in the contest and soon after Humfrey’s return they got into good field position and Eoghan Clarke finished off a rolling maul. This fourth try earned a bonus point, and a well-struck conversion from Tom Pittman secured another as it narrowed the deficit to six points.
This weekend’s results leave the Reds in third place, six points behind Ealing and just three behind Cornish Pirates, who came from behind to beat Bedford 39-24 at the Mennaye. This sets up a tasty encounter at Stade Santander International next Saturday (2.15 k-o) when the Reds will host the Pirates.
EALING TRAILFINDERS: Johnston; Walker, Bodilly, Bird-Tulloch, Daniels; Shingler, Hampson; Gibbons (Smith 70), Malton (YC 54, Campher 71), Thiede, De Wee, Cannon (Linsell 70), Northcote-Green, Uzokwe (Al-Jiboori 74), Smid (c). Unused: Whyte, Massyn, Burns, Willis
JERSEY REDS: Owen, Olowofela (Simmons 16), Roberts, Barnes, Brown; Leeming (Pittman 47), Elliott (Mitchell 59); Godfrey (Flynn h-t), Harris (Clarke 53),Longwell (Yendle 59), O’Connor, Cook, Argyle (Humfrey 47, YC 67), Wynne (c) White (Thompson 55).
REFEREE: Andrew Jackson Assistants: Simon Park, Mike Woods
Half Time: 14-15
Tries: Shingler 11, Daniels 36, Malton 46, Uzokwe 58, Hampson 70
Conversions: Shingler 11, 36, 46, 58, 70
Tries: Wynne 17, Longwell 21, Penalty Try 53, Clarke 78
Conversions: Leeming 17, Pittman 78
Penalty: Leeming 7
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.