Londoners facing a bleak winter in battle to retain Championship status
AS the upper echelons of English rugby again threaten to destroy themselves in a tedious and prolonged argument over European rugby and let's face it, money, it was back to basics in the Championship – a land of little meaningful wealth.
I had never been to Vallis Way before last Saturday, despite spending many years working in west London, and was not really too sure what to expect. I came away hugely impressed by the facilities but pessimistic of my chances of going there again next season.
I hope I am wide of the mark and that Ealing prove me wrong and stay up. They are a fine club run by some good people and they have facilities at their ground far superior to many at established clubs in this league. What they severely lack at present is a team capable of winning enough games to stay in the Championship.
Comparisons have already been drawn between this Ealing team and the Jersey side which battled so hard to stay in the Championship last season. The quality of the teams playing second tier rugby has moved forward across the board during the close season and if Jersey were where Ealing are now, then I think they would be in dire straights too.
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Ealing are currently conceding points at an average of 50 per game and their next two league games see them away to Leeds and Bedford before an already must-win home meeting with Moseley on November 1.
They played against the Pirates like a team which has been put together in a hurry with only sporadic individual threats from the backs and a pack which was destroyed by the Cornish eight who, in my opinion, didn't get the rub of the green from the officials, at scrum time especially, for much of the game.
I was surprised that players like Ryan Storer and Matt Evans only had limited game time against their old club, and where was Sam Hocking? If he was fit he should have been a shoe-in to beef up the Ealing back row.
The London club have had their new league shock treatment now and need to start picking up some points. They will hope that the Pirates do them a favour on Friday and dispatch Moseley, thus keeping them at the wrong end of the table, but while the league standings have a slightly unconventional look to them at present, don't expect Bedford to hang around near the bottom forever.
From a Pirates perspective, a second win away from the Mennaye Field and a first bonus point success on the road after a ridiculously long wait can only be good. Ealing posed a potential disaster in the making this time last week but were well beaten in the end. The Pirates scored five tries and could have had ten. That is the level of accuracy and efficiency they must aspire to.
So with Vallis Way done and dusted and some bleak old grounds to visit in the coming months, I beseech Ealing to find some form and stay in the Championship. Good facilities, as Exeter Chiefs supremo Tony Rowe recently said, are an absolute must at every club in this league.