Friday, 12 August 2022

Weller’s late score proves decisive as Bulls edge out Ealing

WITH a late switch of venues the Bulls took advantage of familiar surroundings to chisel out their first Zoo Shield

WITH a late switch of venues the Bulls took advantage of familiar surroundings to chisel out their first Zoo Shield Division 1 win of the season at Dry Leas on Saturday.

Hugo Milford-Scott took charge after Jim Hadfield’s return to the first team bench and led from an unfamiliar blind-side flanker position where his ball-carrying strength was used on several occasions to both attack and escape from Bulls territory as Ealing injected pace into the opening minutes.

Ealing’s scrum looked vulnerable under the heavier Hawks pressure but Sam Hocking, the visitors’ number eight, succeeded in supplying enough ball for his side to test the Hawks defence.

It was skipper Milford-Scott who burrowed a route through the tight Ealing defence to score at the base of the posts for an opening score converted by fly-half Guy Swadling.

Ealing were swift to respond when their left-wing intercepted a pass which would have put Jordan Ethelston into space and beat the fullback to the line to even the score.

Within five minutes Ealing returned the favour as fly-half Swadling was gifted with a stray pass and raced home to score and convert his own try.

Henley were punished for two offences before half-time allowing Ealing to close the gap to 14-13 when just short of the break the visitors’ fullback made a decisive break to set up a try giving his side a 20-14 lead at half-time.

The second half began with Henley forcing their way over from a dominant scrummage and number eight Barty Carson claiming the points which Swadling failed to add to but soon after a penalty opportunity in front of the posts allowed Swadling to restore a tight lead at 22-20.

Henley’s pack now looked to tire a little after their first half efforts and the pacey Ealing back line added a third score through their fullback and with the conversion and a penalty awarded shortly after they appeared to be in a commanding position.

This sparked a remarkable response from the Bulls’ front five forwards who used the valuable possession from the scrum and line-out to support the hard running Lillington and Incledon in the centre. Incledon found himself in possession of a loose ball 15 metres from the Ealing line, prop Sam Steventon turned and charged through a gap and parried his way to the line to give the Bulls some hope. Swadling converted and with two minutes remaining the Bulls trailed by a point at 30-29.

Ealing kicked deep from the restart and spent a minute pressing home their one-point advantage until a turnover in possession allowed Barty Carson to pick and charge into the Ealing half closely followed by man-of-the-match Mark Bruce.

Bruce encouraged two more rucks to a point where Ealing’s defence looked stretched and quickly launched an attack from left to right where hooker Matt Weller was waiting to sprint the final 10 metres to score the decisive try.

Henley Bulls: 1 Steventon, 2 Higgins, 3 Weller, 4 McGregor, 5 Middleton (Thomas, 55 mins), 6 Milford-Scott, 7 Emmett, 8 Carson, 9 Bruce, 10 Swadling, 11 Perry, 12 Lillington (Antoniou, 62 mins), 13 Incledon, 14 Ethelston, 15 Strang. Replacement: Peris.

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