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Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club saw off a spirited challenge from local rivals Esher to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Esher, who came into the game on the back off three straight wins, started the game brightly, pinning ETRFC back into their own half. The home side were made to sweat in the early exchanges, with the away support making the ground their own.
It was a scrappy opening, with the league leaders back line finding itself under attack. ETRFC stood resolute and after his heroics at Blackheath last weekend, it was the trusted boot of Thomas Wheatcroft that gave ETRFC a 3-0 lead, as the hosts’ first real offensive move led to the first penalty of the day.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to get their side of the scoreboard ticking as they hit back with a penalty of their own three minutes later. The action on the pitch was fierce and was slowly being reflected in the stands as both sides’ fans urged their teams forward.
It was turning out to a low scoring affair as both sides cancelled each other out in the opening 25 minutes. Esher were proving a thorn in the ETRFC side, with the visitors becoming the first team this season to prevent ETRFC running home a try in the first half.
The league leaders did take a 9-6 lead into the break, courtesy of another two penalties from the in-form Tom Wheatcroft and one from Esher’s Robert Kirby.
ETRFC may not have scored a try in the first half but it only took the hosts three minutes after the break to run home their first try of the day. It was a familiar try from the home side, with Phil Chesters using his pace down the wing to run the ball over the line. Wheatcroft converted the extras, giving ETRFC a 16-6 lead.
Ten minutes into the second half and a Wheatcroft penalty was swiftly cancelled out by another penalty for Esher, leaving the score at 19-9.
Midway through the first half Esher scored and closed the gap to 19-14, before taking a 19-21 lead with just under ten minutes to go.
When Tom Wheatcroft missed a penalty with seven minutes left on the clock, the Esher fans were making all the noise and it seemed as though ETRFC would be suffering defeat for the first time this season.
However, just as they did last week, ETRFC left it late as Phil Chesters was able to capitalise on an Esher defensive error to get his second try of the day.
The crowd erupted as Wheatcroft converted the extras to give ETRFC a 26-21 lead. ETRFC were made to defend heroically in the last five minutes in a nail-biting finish.
Mike Cudmore, director and general manager at ETRFC said: "Esher are a good side and when they arrived at the ground they were sitting in third place. We knew it was going to be a tough game and that's exactly what it was. I was very proud of the team’s performance. They never stopped working or believing and in the end we all got the result we wanted and a home win."
ETRFC are unbeaten in eight games and can now turn their attentions to Wharfedale next weekend after a hard-fought victory at Vallis Way.