The Reds’ 10-match winning streak came to an end amid gale-force winds and driving rain at Stade Santander International.
The hosts elected to play into the conditions in the first half and would have been pleased to turn round just 10-17 behind, but came up against a determined effort from Ealing. The visitors made very few errors, showed great discipline and controlled the game well to close out the game and avenge their defeat at Red hands four weeks previously.
The visitors made early inroads into the Jersey half and after a series of forward drives, there was a chance to spread the ball, with Seb Stegmann taking a long cross-field pass and strolling across in the corner. It was a difficult day for kicking, but Craig Willis added the conversion and a penalty to give his side an early advantage.
The Reds showed that it was possible to play into the conditions when they achieved good field position and Dave McKern forced his way over from close range. Former Ealing fly-half Aaron Penberthy matched Willis’s effort with a conversion and penalty to level the scores, the latter after a great attack by Apakuki Ma’afu, Janco Venter and Mark Best, but then the visitors struck again just before the break; hooker Alun Walker went over from the front of a lineout and Willis again judged his conversion to perfection.
Penberthy landed a drop-goal and long-range penalty within five minutes of the restart to move Jersey within a point, but Ealing’s resolve hardened as the weather worsened. The forwards repeatedly drove the ball forward and Willis added another three points. The Reds became frustrated and were unable to carve out any clear-cut opportunities. Brett Herron came on for Penberthy in the closing stage, but by this stage the Reds were mostly pinned in their own half.
“I couldn’t question our commitment or effort, but they were key moments where we needed to be better and I was disappointed at how we managed the second half,” said Jersey head coach Harvey Biljon.
The result left both teams level on points at the top of pool two of the Championship Cup; the Reds hold a narrow advantage (26-21) on tries scored, but there remains lots to play for before the quarter-final line-up is finalised.
“It was a real battle and I thought we’d played some clever, and almost error-free rugby in the second half,” said Ealing director of rugby Ben Ward. “I’d have liked more of a lead at half-time, but as the second half went on the pressure was on Jersey and we forced them to chase the game.
JERSEY REDS: Slowik; Worrall, Ma’afu, Best, Van Dam; Penberthy (Herron 70), Homer (Waters 70); Godfrey (c) (Morley 74), Macfarlane (Selway 42), Atalifo (Rodman 57), Beckett, McKern (Upfield 59), Argyle, Bartle, Venter (Hatherell 70).
EALING TRAILFINDERS: Johnston; Stegmann, Howard, Sloan, Cordy-Redden; Willis, Burns ; Els, Walker (Cornish 47), Millar-Mills, Casson, Denton (West 21), Murphy (Durutalo 37), Reid, Smid (c). Not used: Lundberg, Davis, Foley, May.
REFEREE: Mike Hudson. Assistants: Lionel Spooner, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 10-17
Star Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Rathbones): Max Argyle (Jersey Reds)
Try: McKern 20
Conversion: Penberthy 20
Penalties: Penberthy 30, 45
Drop-goal: Penberthy 44
Tries: Stegmann 6, Walker 35
Conversions: Willis 7, 35
Penalties: Willis 10, 50