Fylde 22 Ealing Trailfinders 15

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THIS heroic effort by Fylde, toppling the league leaders and the champions-elect, will go down as their best results for many a long day.

On an afternoon when England failed miserably to claim the Grand Slam, Fylde could lay claim to a famous clean sweep of their own.

They have now beaten all the four sides above them in National League One, something to boast about.

Jubilant coach Mark Nelson, rightly proud of his team, had to leave the celebrations early to watch his friends The Hollies perform at a concert in Harrogate.

The crowd at the Woodlands decided to stay to toast this landmark win.

And quite right too for such results don’t come along every week and they have to be celebrated.

It was full-on, no-fluke performance by Fylde against a side tasting defeat – and deserved defeat at that – for the first time since November, and only their third reverse of the whole campaign.

There were no end of fine individual performances, few if any weak links, some eye-catching, open rugby and steely-resolved determination to come out on top.

For instance, centre Mike Waywell can have had few better matches for the club in both attack and defence, while prop Danny Birchall, a front-line contender for Fylde’s player of the season, was a tower of strength up front.

Sam Beaumont gave it all he had in the back row and Oli Brennand was a livewire througout, while Ben Rath on the opposite wing has done more than enough to merit an extended run in the side. Fly-half Chris Johnson is also coming into his own on the back of a regular berth.

Ealing pounded away at the Fylde line in the opening exchanges, forcing the home side to concede a succession of penalties, the last of which resulted in scrum-half Martin Wallwork being yellow-carded, paying the price for his side’s persistent offending.

Despite being down to 14 men, dogged defence saw Fylde hold out in this phase.

Fylde, still a player shy, won a line-out and a concerted maul to the line paid a big dividend, with Gareth Rawlings getting the touchdown to put his side ahead after 17 minutes. Johnson was wide with the conversion.

Four minutes later, Fylde extended their lead.It was Waywell who set it up with an absolute pearler of a pass, which found Stephen Briers. Suddenly in the clear, he sprinted gleefully between the posts for Fylde’s second. Johnson converted between the posts to put his side 12-0 in front.

Within just a minute, that advantage had been cut to five points.

Ben Ward intercepted a stray Fylde pass and he had the simplest of task of converting his own touchdown.

Then in the next attack, the scores were levelled.

Andrew Henderson, the Ealing full-back, broke from deep to catch Fylde napping. Prolific winger Philip Chesters was in willing support and followed up to claim the try.

Ward missed the conversion, but within three minutes Fylde’s lead had been wiped out as Ealing achieved parity at 12-12.

That represented a flurry of four tries - two for each side - in a frenetic eight-minute exchange.

Fylde had a chance to claim the lead on 36 minutes, when Johnson just missed out on a chase to the line, an Ealing defender just beating him to the ball.

Fylde forfeited attacking momentum when losing possession at the scrum that followed.

Chris Briers passed up a good attacking chance in the next attack as he turned back inside when it would have been far better to feed Brennand, who was lurking to the left waiting for a pass.

Fylde had more of the play in the run-up to half-time, but in this cut-and-thrust contest the scores remained level at the break.

Six minutes into the second half, Ealing won a penalty, which Ford narrowly missed.

Ealing maintained their attacking presence in the Fylde 22, winning a penalty close to the sticks, which this time Ford had no problem converting to give the visitors the lead for the first time at 15-12.

Then it was it was Fylde’s turn to attack but skipper Evan Stewart dropped the ball in a dangerous position after a kick by the unlikely figure of Rawlings.

Johnson made it 15-15 with an excellent penalty after 54 minutes as the match stayed on a knife-edge.

Three minutes later Fylde edged ahead with a superb try. Arnold did a tremendous off-load before Rawlings carried on the good work. The ball was worked to Ben Rath, who forced the Ealing defence into full retreat with a mazy run.

The attack continued, and although there appeared to be an illegal trip on Fylde’s Ben Vernon, play continued and the ball finally arrived at Brennand, who needed no second invitation to round off a splendid move.

It was augmented by an outstanding conversion from Johnson as Fylde now led 22-15 entering the final quarter, but with plenty of work still to do in an enthralling game, which had little let-up in terms of entertainment and commitment.

Fylde let their defences slip as scrum-half Tom Parker tore a huge hole in their rearguard, but only a timely tackle by replacement Ryan De La Harpe halted a possible Ealing score.

Stewart took a bad bang in what looked like a collision with his team-mate Vernon.

The Fylde captain left the field with blood streaming from his nose. Roger Banks came on briefly but Stewart was patched up quickly and returned to the fray, clearly wanting to lead his team from the front.

Ealing’s no.15 Henderson threatened Fylde with a crossfield sortie, but Rath was on hand to bundle his man into touch with a crunching tackle as the clock started to run down.

Stewart left the field for good on 79 minutes, with a different injury, as the tension increased in this thrill-a-minute game, Fylde keeping the opposition at bay to spark full-throated celebrations from all parts of the ground.

It was a memorable day, indeed.

Fylde: C Briers; Rath, S Briers, Waywell, Brennand; Johnson, Wallwork (De La Harpe, 60); Birchall, Burtwonwood (Roddam 51), Altham n(Griffiths, 51) Arnold, Rawlings, Vernon, Stewart (Banks, 79) Beaumont.