28 January 2017
London Irish kept their unbeaten league run intact, but they were pushed all the way by a determined Ealing Trailfinders outfit at Vallis Way.
The Exiles' winning streak looked to be under threat after Phil Chesters' scintillating try on 65 minutes. However, Tommy Bell's penalty eight minutes from time secured the spoils for Nick Kennedy's men, who have now recorded 14 league wins on the spin.
Ealing were arguably the better team on the day, but Irish found a way to win which will have pleased the Exiles' hierarchy despite struggling to come to terms with the adventurous attacking play of their hosts. Aseli Tikoirotuma's iron-man defending set the tone for a gritty display in West London against a team that will fancy their chances of being involved in the top four shake-up come the end of the season.
It was first blood to Ealing as early as the sixth minute when Chesters crossed in the corner following a sweeping move which had Irish scrambling in defence. Aaron Pentherby was unable to add the extras and the hosts led 5-0.
Six minutes later the Championship's top points scorer Tommy Bell added to his growing tally for the season, reducing the arrears to 5-3 with a penalty. Back in the contest, Irish soon edged ahead by virtue of a James Marshall try – the New Zealander scything in under the posts. Penetrating carries from skipper David Paice and Ofisa Treviranus got the Exiles within reach of the try line, before the ball was spun wide to Marshall, who did the rest. Bell's conversion made it 10-5 to Irish with 18 minutes on the clock.
Ealing immediately hit back at Irish with a flurry of attacks, last ditch defending saving the visitors on a number of occasions. As Ealing continued to press for an opening, Irish themselves looked menacing particularly on the counter.
Nick Kennedy's men went close to stretching their lead on the stroke of half-time when Marshall's neat chip over the top was pounced on by an onrushing Fergus Mulchrone, who darted 30 metres before offloading to the supporting Brendan McKibbin. McKibbin was swamped by a covering Ealing defence and the move broke down.
After Pentherby closed the gap to 10-8 with a penalty four minutes into the second period, Irish notched up their second try of the afternoon on 52 minutes courtesy of Topsy Ojo. With a free play, Ojo took a fizzing inside pass from Marshall on his way to the line. Jubilant scenes from the Exiles faithful in the stand underpinned the relief that Ojo's try surely brought. Bell's conversion made it 17-8 to Irish.
From the restart Ealing were immediately on the front-foot, Irish unable to gather clean ball prior to conceding a penalty. The subsequent penalty was pumped into the corner and with Irish on the ropes, Llewelyn Jones stretched over from the base of a ruck to score. Pentherby's conversion narrowed the gap to 17-15.
On the hour mark, Bell slotted home a penalty to increase Irish's advantage to 20-15, but Ealing would not be swept aside with the west London club taking the lead on 64 minutes through Chesters' converted try.
Ealing looked to capitalise on their slender lead, but handling errors in their own 22 put pressure on their rearguard and forced them to concede a crucial penalty which Bell duly obliged with. 23-22 in front, Irish managed to see out the remainder of the game and leave Vallis Way with their 14th league win of the campaign.
Tries: Chesters (2), Jones
Cons: Pentherby (2)
Tries: Marshall, Ojo
Cons: Bell (2)
Pens: Bell (3)
Ealing Trailfinders: 15 William Harries, 14 Miles Mantella, 13 Aled Jenkins, 12 Joe Munro, 11 Phil Chesters, 10 Aaron Pentherby, 9 Luke Carter, 1 Will Davis, 2 Alun Walker, 3 Lewis Thiede, 4 Llewelyn Jones, 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Kieran Murphy, 7 Arthur Ellis, 8 Mark Bright
Replacements: 16 Matthew Cornish, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Samuel Rodman, 19 Chris York, 20 Rayn Smid, 21 Alex Walker, Lewis Jones
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Ciaran Hearn (Johnny Williams, 37), 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 James Marshall, 9 Brendan McKibbin (Scott Steele, 62), 1 Tom Court (Harry Elrington, 60), 2 David Paice (c), 3 Ben Franks, 4 George Robson (Will Lloyd, 58), 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 6 Mike Coman, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (Luke Narraway, 58)
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Luke Narraway, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Johnny Williams