Fylde 22, Ealing Trailfinders 22.
HONOURS even in this full-throttle encounter – well, sort of even.
The match may have ended in a draw after a late comeback by the visitors, but it was Ealing who were the ‘winners’, claiming three points to Fylde’s two courtesy of a bonus point, in a match watched by 1,200 spectators.
For long periods, it looked likely that Fylde would win as they moved into a 22-7 lead, but a defensive collapse in the latter stages, in which Owen Bruynseels helped himself to a hat-trick in seven minutes, turned the game on its head.
Fylde will look at this final home league match of the season as one that got away, given that they had the bulk of the territorial advantage, particularly in the first half when they should have been ahead instead of 7-5 down.
Having enjoyed such a handsome second-half cushion, Fylde looked to have withstood some concerted Ealing pressure with stubborn defence, but they could not repel the second wave as their advantage was gradually and worryingly whittled away.
Fylde drew first blood with only two minutes gone. Martin Wallwork caught Ealing on the back foot with a quickly-taken penalty, which led to a fast-flowing move.
The ball passed through several pairs of hands before Nick Royle was released out on the right, sprinting past three or four defenders on his way to crossing the line for an unconverted score.
Ealing retaliated, and danger man Phil Chesters was bundled into touch close to the Fylde line.
Martin Wallwork was foraging with some purpose from scrum-half, constantly getting the line moving.
From one move, Richard Kenyon fired a pass to Oli Brennand, who had daylight in front of him. A try looked likely, but he knocked on.
Brennand looked to have atoned minutes later as he chased a Kenyon kick. The free-scoring wing was a split-second from scoring when he was forcibly bundled into touch by Owen Bruynseels.
A knock-on on the other wing by Royle saw another chance go begging.
There was an escape for Fylde when an extravagant pass by Ealing centre Tom Wheatcroft was ruled forward.
Mike Waywell stopped Ealing dangerman Chesters with a crunching tackle to snuff out another attack.
It had been a first half of missed opportunities for Fylde, who had had far more openings but failed to take them.
This was underlined at half-time, when after a sustained bout of pressure Ealing scored.
They won a succession of scrums, from the last of which Morgan Thompson peeled away to squirm over – Ben Ward added the conversion to give his side a 7-5 half-time lead.
At the restart, Kenyon tested Ealing with a mazy run, as he dodged this way and that in sparkling fashion.
But Fylde did not have to wait too long for their second try, as Josh Beaumont went through from close-in.
Kenyon then landed a fine conversion from wide out, and Fylde were back in front 12-7.
The home side created a gilt-edged chance after a burst from deep by Royle. The ball was worked to Oliver Viney, who sent a forward pass to Brennand with the line glaring in front of the Fylde wing.
Viney atoned in superb style, counter-attacking and haring past several Ealing players. He managed to sneak out a pass to Simon Griffiths, who was just held up.
Ealing infringed as Fylde continued to press, Kenyon extending the lead with a penalty in front of the posts.
To compound Ealing’s problems, their second row, Gavin Cury, was yellow-carded.
Ealing hit back, putting Fylde under the cosh until Royle intercepted a stray pass. He picked up the ball and raced fully 80 yards to the try-line for a spectacular score. The man he out-flanked was no slouch, Ealing’s 41-try man Chesters.
Kenyon’s conversion made it 22-7, and it appeared as though Fylde had done the hard part.
Ealing were not done, and replacement Simon Gaynor, and then Thompson, were held up close to the line.
Despite Ealing being down to 14 men, they came forward purposefully, but Fylde stood firm.
Fyle produced some slick handling after this intense period of defence – a pass by Waywell was ruled forward as he tried to send Viney through a gap.
For the first time in the match, Fylde’s defence looked tired, as Ealing got back into the contest with a try on the right by Bruynseels.
Within a couple of minutes, Fylde were again exposed on the same flank, and Bruynseels took advantage.
It got worse for Fylde as Ealing levelled – Ward kicked wide to Bruynseels, who had all the time in the world to stroll in and score.
The score was unconverted, but the visitors’ remarkable comeback had levelled the scores at 22-all with five minutes remaining.
Next it was Fylde who went on the offensive, as they won a succession of line-outs, but the visitors held firm.
Royle tried to dodge through to give Fylde a last-gasp win, but he was swamped by defenders,
Then Chris Briers almost broke away, but referee Steve Lee ruled crossing, the final act of yet another exciting, knife-edge game, and Fylde had to settle for two points, when four looked on the cards.
Fylde: Viney; Royle, C Briers, Waywell, Brennand; Kenyon, Wallwork (Depledge, 63); Griffiths (Altham, 73) Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold (Ferguson, 40) J Beaumont, Stephenson, McGinnis, S Beaumont.