Cinderford push title hopefuls Ealing close in hard-fought clash
EALING were relieved to leave the Beavis Memorial Ground with the win as their title credentials were given a stern examination by a Cinderford side whose performance did not belie their lofty place in the table.
A tight National League One game produced few moments of flair but Cinderford outscored their opponents by two tries to one and the losing bonus point they gained from the game was the least they deserved.
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Neither side could gain superiority in a tight first half, but Cinderford went into the break leading by 5-3.
The only try of the period came with just two minutes gone as Lloyd Stapleton capitalised on a high kick from Mark Davies that the Ealing defence allowed to bounce and he touched down out wide.
Immediately, Ealing made a statement of their own by smashing the Cinderford scrum off their own ball and Tom Wheatcroft kicked the resulting penalty.
Playing with the sun setting behind them, Davies pinned Ealing back with a series of good kicks but none led to the Foresters fashioning a scoring chance.
Ealing, too, were finding opportunities hard to create and it wasn't until midway through the period that they managed to gain decent field position but poor execution cost them the scoring opportunity.
Captain Will Foden was sin-binned on the advice of a touch judge and Ealing piled on the pressure.
However, the 14 men survived to see out the half without conceding.
Ealing came out with real purpose in the second period and scored after barely two minutes had gone, with the lively Hodgkinson scrambling over after the forwards had pounded the home line for several phases.
Cinderford roused themselves and replied with a classy try.
Davies' wide pass sent Adams spearing through a gap on the 22 and Stapleton finished out wide for his second of the game.
After a period of harum scarum play with both sides flinging the ball about with abandon, Wheatcroft slotted his second penalty to edge the league leaders in front.
Ealing looked to increase their lead but Cinderford stubbornly held out.
As the clock ticked down, Mike Wilcox moved to fly-half as Davies hobbled off and Cinderford threw everything at Ealing.
But the visitors finished in the ascendancy and closed out a valuable win that keeps them in top spot while Cinderford's point moves them up to fifth.
CINDERFORD: M Wilcox; N Codlin, J Adams, R Winchle, L Stapleton; M Davies (S Hawley H-t), S Arnott; J Brooks, T Bozzard (S Bailey H-T), J Smart; B West, D Critchley; L Allen, W Foden, J Garner. Replacements: L Green, D McKee, K Done.
EALING: R Damant; S Wardingley, R McLean-Dents (M Evans 66), T Wheatcroft, A Henderson; P Hodgkinson, M Thompson; T Tunnicliff (L Brown 63), R Townsend, T Brockett; A Preocanin (L Perkins 78), S Pape; A Nilsson, L Starling; S Shires. Replacements: T Riley, P Chesters.
Referee: Marcus Caton (RFU appointment)
Star Man: Joe Garner (Cinderford) worked hard from the base of the scrum and won more than his share of lineout ball and was the pick of a hard-working pack.