Reds fall at final hurdle but remain ‘super proud’

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EALING avenged being beaten to the league title by Jersey Reds as they edged out the Islanders in a thrilling ten-try affair to deny them a league and cup double.

Welsh international Jonah Holmes scored a brace for the West Londoners, followed by tries from Jack Digby, Max Bodilly and George Davis as Ealing made it a hat-trick of Championship Cups on home turf.

Reds were relentless in their ambition with Ben Woollett and Jordan Holgate each scoring twice and TJ Harris touching down in his swansong game but they were behind throughout.

Inside centre Holgate said: ‘A disappointing result to end our season but I can’t be more proud of the boys for what we’ve achieved this year, and I’m super proud of the performances we’ve put in week in, week out.

‘Unfortunately, we came up short as a team but that’s sport. We didn’t want to sit back at any point, we tried to force our own game on them and in parts we did that. There was very little difference out there – it felt like a massive battle between two teams with waves at either end but we fell short.’

With the atmosphere bubbling up nicely just before kick-off, Ealing, full of confidence on home turf where they’ve lost only once this season, started quickly and immediately pinned Jersey Reds into their own 22-metre area leading to three line-outs deep in the Islanders’ territory.

Blindside Max Argyle got the turnover and Woollett’s grubber found Tomi Lewis on the counter,. The Welsh winger hared down the middle and was just short before Ealing’s scramble defence worked.

Another Reds infringement allowed the West Londoners two lineouts and the chance to get deep into the Islanders’ 22-metre area.

Despite Harvey Biljon’s side absorbing the pressure well in the middle of the park, several phases for Ealing allowed scrum-half Craig Hampson to find Holmes on the right before the winger side-stepped his countryman Lewis to touch down.

With both sides forced into early changes due to injuries, Reds regrouped with a dominant scrum and line-break by Lewis putting them deep into the home-side’s 22-metre area.

A quick lineout found Holgate, who side-stepped past one defender with nimble footwork and crashed through two green-and-white defenders at pace to dive over the whitewash to the left of the posts.

It narrowed the game to 7-5 after Russell Bennett’s conversion sailed wide.

Ealing countered quickly, with lock Bobby de Wee and No.8 Simon Uzokwe linking up but Reds’ scrambled and Holgate made a try-saving tackle.

Jersey looked to have tightened up after giving away several early penalties but No.8 Alun Lawrence was sin-binned on the 35th minute for a side entry at a ruck.

With a man advantage, Trailfinders started the second-half on the front foot and Holmes scored almost a carbon-copy of his first try following a maul before several pick-and-go phases in the centre which left Hampson able to find Holmes on the flank for his 16th try of the season.

Back to full complement, the Islanders fought back almost immediately and, after a driving maul from a lineout came just short, Woollett bamboozled Ealing’s defence with an out-of-position break and linked up with Harris for the replacement to score in his first fixture for the Reds in four months.

Ealing had several scoring opportunities, but the Reds kept it to a two-point game at 14-12 for more than 10 minutes with some dogged defending.

But the pivotal period in the game came just after the hour-mark as Ealing got a quick-fire double. First, from a lineout drive in Reds’ territory, replacement back-rower Digby linked up with Uzokwe and barrelled over on the left.

Then, off the restart, a beautiful free-flowing move saw outside centre Bodilly duck past two Reds players before going around fullback Brendan Owen to score under the posts.

With just over 10 minutes left, replacement wing Ryan Hutler, in his final game for the Reds, broke through and made 40 metres from deep before linking up with Woollett and the Australian powered past Hampson and Reuben Bird-Tulloch to score.

Ealing tighthead George Davis then muscled over after a lineout drive for what would prove to be the match-winning try with wing Luke Daniels adding the extras.

But Jersey refused to roll over and threatened a late comeback. Several phases from a lineout saw Holgate power over for his second try.

With the clock in the red, Hutler burst through the green-and-white line again, coming just short on the left before Woollett swooped in by the left post in a great length-of-the-field effort. But the Islanders had ran out of time.

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