Rotherham Titans put in their best display of the season before ultimately just falling short as Ealing ran out 23-18 winners at Clifton Lane.
Titans did however collect a well-deserved bonus point against the high-flyers from West London and on another day may well have secured all four points for the win.
It was a difficult task to select Titans man-of-the-match with so many individuals staking a claim for the accolade, but scrum half Will Porter couldn’t have been far away as he scored 2 tries to cap off a fine individual performance.
The game started with Ealing showing just why they are at the top end of the division as they moved the ball quickly through the backs and their forwards demonstrating good power and aggression.
Indeed it took the visitors just 5 minutes to breach the whitewash as second rower Harry Casson barged his way over from close range, following some fine ball retention from his pack mates. Shane O’Leary tagged over the extras to give his side an early 7-0 lead.
Rotherham however had an energetic look about them and their intensity combined with good line speed repeatedly stopped the Trailfinders penetrating the gain line. Titans were rewarded for their endeavours on 11 minutes when fly half Caolan Ryan knocked over a fine penalty in the difficult blustery conditions.
Better was to come for Rotherham moments later when turnover ball in midfield was quickly fed out wide to Drew Cheshire. He made 30 plus metres downfield before offloading back inside to Will Porter who in turn glided over to put nudge Titans ahead. Ryan’s conversion from almost in front of the sticks made it 10-7 to the hosts.
In this entertaining encounter both sides held little back in the physicality department and credit to both teams as each were willing to play some fine rugby at every given opportunity.
Ealing nosed ahead again just after the half hour mark as Championship veteran Mark Bright was on hand to crash over the Titans line for an unconverted try, following an Ealing scrum five metres out.
Rotherham however continued to perform at a high standard and thus put pressure on their opponents. During this period and just two minutes before half time Caolan Ryan added his second penalty of the match to edge the home side 13-12 up.
Unfortunately for Rotherham with the last play of the half Ealing scored a thrilling breakaway try through Will Harries following a terrific break downfield from full back Luke Daniels.
Undeterred Rotherham came out for the second half in determined fashion as their intensity and work-rate continued to impress. However, it was replacement fly half for Ealing, Peter Lydon, who scored next with a fine penalty kick to stretch his side’s advantage to 20-13.
On the hour mark however Rotherham came storming back as first Drew Cheshire found some space down the right hand side before finding Yiannis Loizias in support. The outside centre showed great pace before being tackled close to the line, but as he was tackled he popped the ball to Porter who collected nicely to dash over for his second try. Unfortunately Ryan missed the difficult conversion from out wide which would have levelled the scores.
In the closing stages both sides pressed with great intent, but two minutes into injury time it was Lydon who knocked over his second penalty to give Ealing a 23-18 lead and the match.
Speaking post-game Titans Andy Key explained, “We can be pleased with our performance and we’ve been working on that for the last few weeks in terms of building on our performances; but we lost the game. We know there was a couple of opportunities out there that we missed, including conceding a silly try on the stroke of half time and that’s the thing with these better sides, you make one mistake and they take advantage of it.
“However, I can only applaud the performance from our guys and how deep they dug in during the game. They now know that is the minimum standard that we have to maintain in every game going forward.
“But it wasn’t just about our defence today, which I thought was very good and you can see the massive improvement we’ve made in that area under Dave Ellis, but we also created some outstanding opportunities. The hard work the boys put in created those chances, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to just finish them off.”
Referee: Simon Harding
Yellow Card: None
Titans: Porter (2T), Ryan (2P, C)
Ealing: Cason (T), Bright (T), Harries (T), O’Leary (1C), Lydon (2P)
Titans: 15 Will Thomas, 14 Drew Cheshire, 13 Yiannis Loizias, 12 Luke Peters, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Will Porter, 1 Toby Williams, 2 Luke Cole (Maddison 52), 3 Matt Shields (Palmer HIA 52-66) (Palmer 79), 4 Rob Louw (Postlethwaite 69), 5 Byron Hodge, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Tom Calladine (Capt.), 8 Tom Burns (Willis 47).
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Brandon Palmer, 18 Matt Postlethwaite, 19 Tom Willis, 20 Ben Foley, 21 Francisco Vieira, 22 Lee Millar.
Ealing Trailfinders: 15 Luke Daniels, 14 James Cordy Redden, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Joe Munro, 11 Will Harries, 10 Shane O’Leary (Lydon 49), 9 Grayson Hart (Carter 69), 1 Will Davis (Gibbons 58), 2 Alun Walker, 3 Lewis Thiede (Rodman 62), 4 Harry Casson (Curry 58), 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Rayn Smid, 7 Dan Temm (Allen 71), 8 Mark Bright (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Sam Rodman, 19 Oli Curry, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Luke Carter, 22 Peter Lydon.