If championship form is defined as getting a result despite not playing your best, then Ealing Trailfinders look like they may yet have a big say in the National League Three title race.
To come away from Richmond on Saturday with a bonus-point 27-22 win therefore speaks volumes for the side¹s promotion credentials and with leaders London Scottish dropping a bonus point away at Henley, the Vallis Road club will go into 2009 still harbouring hopes of finishing top.
Flanker Harry Rowland gave Ealing the best possible start, running in a try in the second minute following an uninterrupted period of play from the kick-off. Ben Ward added the conversion.
Richmond responded with a penalty from the reliable boot of captain Matt Hart before taking the lead when a favourable bounce from a chip ahead allowed centre Nick Wheatley to beat the last defender and touch down under the posts.
Hart's conversion put the home side 10-7 ahead. Ben Ward regained the lead for the visitors three minutes later when he ghosted through a dog-legged defensive line to score and his conversion made it 14-10 midway through the first half.
Ealing were guilty of making too many unforced errors, particularly at the back of rucks, giving their hosts plenty of possession and territory, which they were able to exploit and two more Hart penalties gave Richmond a 16-14 half-time lead.
Hart extended that lead 10 minutes into the second half with his fourth penalty of the game, but the visitors managed to cut out the mistakes that were costing them so dearly for long enough to apply a sustained period of pressure on the Richmond defence after that. They set up position for Ward to chip crossfield into the arms of Owen Bruynseels to cross for his 11th try of the season and to tie the scores at 19-19.
Minutes later, Ward kicked a penalty to regain the lead and Ealing looked set to move on and close the game. However, the errors returned and Richmond kept their hope of an upset alive, but were themselves undone by a series of knock-ons and a miserly Ealing defence, especially around the fringes of rucks, that prevented the hosts from taking advantage of their possession.
With 10 minutes left, Ealing again managed to string together enough quality to break into the home 22 and this time Ward's crossfield kick went left to David Howells who still had work to do to score his 23rd try this term.
A fifth Hart penalty brought Richmond back to within one score of the win at 27-22, but the Ealing defence held firm and the Ealing players¹ relief on the final whistle was plain to see.
Ealing return to action in the New Year at home to Canterbury on Saturday, January 3 (2pm).