Ealing Trailfinders 21-26 Bristol Rugby
Phil Chesters and Nathan Hannay scored tries as Ealing Trailfinders earned a losing bonus point at home to promotion favourites Bristol Rugby.
However, tries from Jack Wallace and Tom Varndell in quick succession in the second half gave Bristol the initiative and Gavin Henson’s kicking allowed them to keep Ben Ward’s side at arm’s length despite the best efforts of the hosts.
After only six minutes Chesters swooped on a loose ball and used his pace to outstrip one-time England winger Tom Varndell to score the opening tray. After Tristan Roberts converted it, the defence had its first serious test, but the home team’s defence held out Bristol centre Jack Tovey.
James Love stretched the lead further with a long-distance penalty, but the visitors grabbed a toe hold in the match on the half-hour mark when Henson banged over his first penalty. A second just before half-time ensured that Bristol were in touch at 10-6 behind at the break.
Early in the second half Ealing Trailfinders’ defence again denied Bristol their first try as good defence stop them from capitalising on an overlap close to the tryline. However, Henson knocked over a third penalty to close Bristol to within a point with half an hour remaining.
Despite that Ealing Trailfinders rediscovered their rhythm and began to enjoy a period of pressure that was eventually rewarded when second-row Hannay bundled his way over from close range.
Again Bristol stirred themselves into action and Wallace raced over following Will Cliff’s break and soon after Varndell picked a strong line off Tovey to receive his pass, race away from the defence to score and put Bristol in front for the first time.
Roberts scored two penalties in quick succession, but Adrian Jarvis score one of his own to stretch Bristol’s lead to 26-21 and establish himself as Bristol’s all-time leading scorer with 709 points.
Still the hosts pressed and late on James Stephenson was denied a late try for a forward pass.
Tries (Chesters 6, Hannay 52), Conversions (Roberts 6), Penalties (Love 19, Roberts 59, 62)
Tries (Wallace 55, Varndell 57), Conversions (Henson 55, 57), Penalties (Henson 30, 39, 46, Jarvis 65)
James Love, James Stephenson, Danny Barnes, Joe Munro, Phil Chesters, Tristan Roberts, Alex Walker; George Porter, Matt Thompson, Sam Rodman, Nathan Hannay, Llewelyn Jones, Harrison Orr, Arthur Ellis, Danny Kenny (capt)
Jamie Kilbane, Karl Gibson, Alex Penny, Chris York, Alex Bradley, Tom Bliss, Callum Wilson
Jack Wallace, Tom Varndell, Jack Tovey, Nick Carpenter, Charlie Amesbury, Gavin Henson, Craig Hampson; Ellis Genge, Ross McMillan, Gaston Cortes, Ben Glynn, Mark Sorenson (captain), Nick Koster, Olly Robinson, Mitch Eadie
Max Crumpton, Jack O'Connell, Jamal Ford-Robinson, Glen Townson, Ryan Smid, Will Cliff, Adrian Jarvis
Referee – Ian Tempest
Attendance - 874