Nine try Champions Ealing smash Blues in West London season finale

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Cameron King in action for Bedford Blues at Ealing in May 2024
Cameron King for Bedford Blues Image: Claire Jones / 'X'

Ealing Trailfinders finished another title-winning season with a comfortable 59-12 victory over a lacklustre Bedford Blues side in West London, with Mike Rayer’s side finishing fourth in the Championship.

Indeed, Ealing’s first place and Bedford’s fourth were already confirmed before the first whistle which promised for an open affair but it was Ealing who were by far the more clinical as they powered home to another Championship victory.

Ben Ward made a full 15 changes to the home side’s starting line up, with a nod to the future perhaps taking precedence but it was a regular name that found the whitewash to kick start scoring for the home side.

Simon Uzokwe crashed through a couple of tackles to find the try line and when Dan Lancaster converted via the upright, the champions led 7-0 after ten minutes.

Opportunities for the Blues, particularly from the lineout, didn’t come to fruition as Mike Rayer’s side had their fair share of possession and territory in the opening quarter of an hour but early errors were costing them.

Bedford Blues rugby player Joe Howard crashes through a tackle to score a try for Bedford Blues
Joe Howard gets the Blues on the board Image: Claire Jones / ‘X’

Former Blues centre, Reuben Bird-Tulloch doubled the home side’s lead thanks to excellent hands from the Ealing back line, although the attack was gifted to them by a controversial call from the referee, but the Trailfinders were good value for their 14-0 lead after twenty minutes.

From the next attack, Bedford eventually got a lineout correct; going long to Alex Woolford and in the blink of an eye, Joe Howard had his paws on the ball as he bundled over to get the Blues on the scoreboard.

Ealing however, hit back with a killer double blow.

Another error, this time a simple knock-on from Jamie Elliott, gave Ealing a third look in as Lancaster cross-kicked an inch perfect nudge to Angus Kernohan on the right wing, followed swiftly by the bonus point try for Bird-Tulloch.

Things went from bad to worse for the away side as Luke Frost was sin-binned towards the end of the first half, seemingly for abject words towards the referee as Ealing went into the interval 26-5 ahead.

Yellow fever

With Frost still in the bin as the second half got underway, Dean Adamson joined him for deliberately hitting the ball out of play as Ealing pounced for their fifth try and when Frost re-joined the action, Ealing’s Frankie Sleightholme crossed paths as he went to the bin for a dangerous tackle.

Away from the referee’s whistle, the second half began increasingly scrappy as neither team got a handle on the ball but Ealing’s fifth try came on the fifty minute mark.

Captain Alex Day was urging his side to ‘switch on’ after Ealing gained a penalty in midfield, but all they did was switch off as Ealing tapped a penalty and another Lancaster cross-field kick once again found Kernohan to dot down in the corner.

Seán French scores a try for Bedford Blues at Ealing
Seán French runs in a consolation try Image: Claire Jones / ‘X’

Bedford hit back as Seán French darted through the tiniest of gaps to dot down his 15th Championship try of the campaign under the posts, but the lead was still over 20 points and it felt a long way back for the visitors.

Cam Terry’s try at the back of a driving lineout extended the Champions’ lead further before a fourth yellow card of the game was flashed for French as Bedford Blues once again found themselves down to 14 men.

Bird-Tulloch hat trick brings up fifty

It wasn’t long before Ealing extended their lead as replacement, Tom Collins found himself as the spare man on the left wing to score the home side’s seventh as the Trailfinders powered towards the fifty-point mark.

It would be Bird-Tulloch who would bring up the half century after sailing straight through the middle of a tired Blues defence to secure his hat trick while Frankie Sleightholme scored the ninth and final try on his debut.

It brought to an end a dominant performance from the full-time side who lifted the Championship trophy for the third time in four seasons, while it was a disappointing end to what has been a good campaign for the Blues.

Preparations now turn to the 2024/25 campaign, with player ins and outs already taking place at Goldington Road and beyond, with Ealing coming back with an almost new line up as 23 of their squad move on.