Ealing Trailfinders 5-20 Plymouth Albion
Ealing Trailfinders endured another miserable Friday night as Plymouth Albion became the latest team to inflict damage to their fragile morale.
A seventh straight defeat has left them wondering where their first losing bonus point might come from – let alone their first win – such is the lack of devil in their play going forward.
And it does not get any easier either. A visit to table-topping London Welsh next Sunday does not look likely to herald a maiden Championship win.
As with last week's game against Moseley, Mike Cudmore's men had plenty of the ball but were simply unable to do any damage, whereas Albion were more street-wise and made the most of the chances that came their way. It is becoming a recurring theme.
At least they avoided a whitewash. A late try for young reserve hooker Josh Elliott brought some consolation. But this is not a club who have risen up the leagues with driving mauls and there was little in the way of backs invention.
Ealing began full of aggression at least – forcing the visitors into a knock-on in their own 22 and earning a penalty after some sustained pressure.
Tom Wheatcroft's kick struck an upright and very soon the early optimism was punctured by an Albion break and some missed tackles, which has been one of the bugbears for the home side this season.
Plymouth Hooker Gareth Evans offloaded to centre Thomas Bowen and after riding a few limp tackles, the tryline was there for the taking.
Declan Cusack converted in front of the posts and then helped himself to two penalties as Plymouth stretched away to 13-0 with the game only 15 minutes old.
On the greasy surface, saturated by a downpour in the build-up to kick-off time, it was already looking like being a major slog to get back into the game.
Two more penalty misses from Wheatcroft before half time did not help banish such thoughts. The first, wide on the right, the second on the opposition 10m line but central, were both eminently kick-able but nothing is proving easy for Ealing this season.
A quarter of an hour into the second half and the die was well and truly cast, when hooker Sam Wilkes was yellow carded for offside as a succession of penalties were conceded in the 22 during a spell of sustained pressure from the visitors.
Centre Lewis Warner eventually profited from close range and Cusack converted to make it 20-0 and not even late home try could mask the disappointment.
“It is not what Ealing have been used to in the last 12 years,“ wrote President Dick Craig in the programme. “But this is life with the big boys and we cannot shrink from the challenge ahead.”