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Ealing Trailfinders 41 Wharfedale 13

November 22nd, 2013
London proved again to be Wharfedale’s least favourite destination, not only because of the poor results of the four matches they have played there this season, but because on three occasions they have ended the match with injuries to key players. Leaving Ealing with no points in the bank might have been expected, but with an eye to the remainder of March’s fixtures the management must be hoping that Allen and Brown – the timber in the side – will have recovered in time for the trials to come. This match cruelly underlined the difference in quality (and riches) between the top and the bottom – you might even say the south and the north – not least in the size of the squads from which they can choose. Despite the overwhelming success of its second string the Foresters, when it comes to competing at this level Wharfedale’s cupboard looks worryingly bare. The venerable Ealing club, which had never progressed beyond level four in its long history before doing a deal with the tour company and becoming the Trailfinders, can now start planning for life in the Championship. They are well set up, with a well-resourced and enthusiastic sponsor, and will no doubt make a decent fist of it. Wharfedale’s game plan was to stifle the threat of the flying Ealing back division, led by prolific left-winger Phil Chesters, but by the twelfth minute that plan lay in tatters: first he made the break for the inside scoring pass to centre McLean-Dents, then helped himself to a try of his own. Amazingly, neither was converted and by half-time the visitors had twice got on to the scoreboard through the reliable place-kicking of Tom Barrett. The home goal-kicker eventually succeeded in landing an unmissable penalty, and at 13-6 the visitors were theoretically still in the game. To the optimistic visitor, it all might have been different – up front, anyway. In the early stages the Greens appeared to have a slight advantage in the scrums, but mistakes in the face of the home side’s blitz defending, together with the normal heavily adverse penalty count, meant that promising moves came to nothing and the home 22 remained inviolate, as it would do until Tom Barrett’s solo effort in the dying seconds of the match. Wharfedale’s injury jinx struck as early as the 20th minute when Alastair Allen withdrew with a back spasm; by the time Richard Brown departed early in the second half  with a knee injury, set-piece parity had become a thing of the past, and Ealing’s flying backs were let loose. Interspersed with embarrassing acts of profligacy on the part of their young full-back, second-half  tries came at regular intervals through lock Pape (2), Wheatcroft and Ward, all of them converted by Ward himself, taking over kicking duties from the errant Wheatcroft. When such a talented formation as Ealing’s back division finds its confidence, it is only a matter of time before defensive formations collapse, and heads are likely to drop. That Wharfedale kept going, and indeed caused some anxious moments in the final quarter with breaks from Whaites and Rhodes before Barrett’s last-minute try, is to their considerable credit. It was a match made for Wharfedale’s stand-in captain for the day, the combative James Gough, who led by example and, feeling the wear and tear, had to be dragged from the field with five minutes to go. Tom Barrett’s try, following up his own clever chip to score under the posts, at least gave his side the relief of not having to travel home without having crossed their opponents’ line. Ealiong Trailfinders: Henderson; Bruynseels (Wardlingley 70), McLean-Dents, Wheatcroft, Chesters; Ward, Parker; Tunnicliff (Neville 65), Moyce, Brockett (Townsend 75), Curry (Preocanin 70), Pape (Neville 35-44), Gibson, Shires (Perkins 65), Evans. Wharfedale: Whaites; Davies, Donkin, Gray (Horsfall 69), Woodhead; Barrett, Gough (Druce 76); Howard (Altham 69), Larkin, Tampin (Howard 75), Brown (Graham 44), Rhodes, Allen (Mason 21), Solomi, Myers. Referee: Terry Hall.
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