Ealing Trailfinders and Park out to repeat Christmas classic
With six days until Ealing Trailfinders and Rosslyn Park meet in a top of the table contest, we look back on the last time the teams met at the Rock, when Tom Wheatcroft earned Ealing Trailfinders a hard-fought draw in the final match of 2012.
Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV muscled their way to a hard-fought 16-16 draw against local rivals Rosslyn Park, but it required a nerveless Wheatcroft penalty in the dying minutes to secure a draw for the visitors.
The local derby lived up to expectations despite the unfavourable wet and windy weather conditions. It had everything - triumph, despair, excitement, joy, nerves and determination - one left Priory Lane wanting more.
Ealing Trailfinders 1st XV had an opportunity in to register the first points early on, but Wheatcroft’s penalty kick fell just short. The early exchanges were physical and typical of a local derby as both sides aimed to stamp their authority.
It was evident that Park’s scrum was gaining the upper hand, and when they opted for a scrum from a free-kick, a penalty ensued and Park fly-half Ross Laidlaw slotted the kick to send the home side into a 3-0 lead.
Ealing Trailfinders sustained a period of dominance as they bombarded Park’s line, largely due to Park’s high penalty count and Ealing Trailfinders attacking prowess. However, for all Ealing Trailfinders endeavour they were unable to breach the solid Park defence and rued their inability to secure possession from their set-piece when they conceded a penalty on 32 minutes for a ruck infringement that allowed Laidlaw to increase Park’s lead to 6-0.
With Ealing Trailfinders back in the ascendency, a penalty enabled Wheatcroft to narrow the gap to 6-3 as half-time approached and they began the second period with renewed enthusiasm and immediately drew level with their London rivals as Wheatcroft’s second penalty sailed through the uprights.
In a game of constant see-sawing, it was Rosslyn Park’s turn to exert pressure in Ealing Trailfinders half. A succession of drives and closer-quarter mauling suffocated the visitors and Laidlaw’s third penalty of the game meant Park took the lead once more.
Ealing Trailfinders refused to lie down and fashioned a powerful response as their multi-phase attacks had the excellent Park side firmly on the back foot. A series of forceful forward runners provided the space for the dangerous Ealing Trailfinders back-line to showcase their skill. It would take something special to break down the determined defence of Park and that is what the Ealing Trailfinders did.
A combination of neat handling and exceptional off-loading enabled Andrew Henderson to race over in the corner to finish off a try of true quality. Wheatcroft added an excellent angled conversion to take the visitors into a 13-9 lead with a quarter of the game remaining.
Park stormed back and rumbled on through their forwards and the visitors were dealt a blow when No.8 Sam Shires was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing a driving maul. In an exceptional show of determined character, Ealing Trailfinders managed to repel surge after surge of Park’s power plays, but eventually the pressure told as Tim Tunnicliffe was the second Ealing Trailfinders player to be sent to the bin.
From a lineout, Park put on an unstoppable drive and when another illegal intervention threatened to stop it, referee Greg Macdonald had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Laidlaw took his time in adding the simple conversion as it appeared that Park had snatched an improbable victory from Ealing Trailfinders grasp.
However, a needless penalty allowed Wheatcroft to step up and be the hero once more as he slotted the penalty to level the scores at 16 apiece before the final whistle brought down the curtain on a fantastic game of National 1 rugby.