A young Northampton Saints line-up was beaten by a well-drilled and experienced Ealing Traiflinders side in the opening round of the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Will Glister scored in each half (and was unlucky to see a hat-trick try chalked off by the TMO) on his competitive debut for the visitors, with Tom Cruse also crossing for Saints – but that was not enough even for a losing bonus point in West London.
Trailfinders had a commanding lead at the break after scoring four unanswered tries to lead 31-10, and they held that advantage as the second half progressed to open up the re-vamped competition with a victory.
The men in Black, Gold and Green could not have got off to a better start on their first ever visit to Ealing, as a misjudged cross-field kick from the hosts gifted Saints a five-metre scrum – and Archie McParland scooped up from the base and found Glister on the short side to finish.
The fast-paced start continued as moments later Ealing replied; Northampton could not claim the kick-off, and a Trailfinders move ended with Nathan Earle scoring in the corner with Steve Shingler converting to level the scores at 7-7 after just five minutes.
The hosts then took the lead three minutes later, as a five-metre lineout drive allowed former Saints Academy flanker Simon Uzokwe to crash over – and Shingler added the extra two.
Jake Garside came close for Saints with a chip and chase, but the ball just rolled the wrong side of the touchline, and from there Ealing scored their third. Trailfinders overturned a Northampton line-out throw and Shingler kicked ahead into space, but with no-one in the backfield for Saints, it was Dan O’Brien who won the footrace to score.
James Grayson did respond for Saints as the visitors won a penalty around 40 metres out, and the fly-half kicked three points to bring his side within a couple of scores.
But six minutes before half-time, Tom Lockett saw yellow for a no arms tackle, and Ealing took advantage of the extra man to score twice before the interval. First, Mike Willemse crashed over at the back of a rolling maul, before the hosts found space down the short-side to release Earle again and open up a 31-10 lead at the break.
Saints started the second 40 much more brightly, and were rewarded for their efforts five minutes in by scoring with a well-worked lineout drill which saw Grayson offload inside to Glister to dart through a gap for his second of the afternoon.
But, not long after Lockett returned to the fray from his sin-bin, Saints were back down to 14 men as Theo Vukasinovic was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
Ealing were just as clinical again with the extra-man advantage, with yet another rolling maul allowing Matt Cornish to rumble over for Ealing’s sixth.
Trailfinders knocked on over the line in the face of stern Northampton defence a few minutes later, but used their extra man again to great effect as some interplay from the backs created the space for fullback Cian Kelleher to scamper over.
With nine minutes to go, replacement hooker Cruse scored Saints’ third of the game from a patiently-executed rolling maul, after Grayson’s fantastic kick to touch – with the fly-half sending the ball right into the corner from a penalty on halfway.
However, Ealing had the last word as Jonah Holmes crossed in the corner when the hosts were able to go through several phases again close to the Northampton line, leaving the scoreline at 48-22 in West London – with Saints now set to welcome Cambridge next weekend in the competition’s second round.
TRAILFINDERS: Kelleher, Holmes, O’Brien, Bird-Tulloch, Earle, Shingler, Hampson; Goodrick-Clarke, Willemse, Roots, de Wee, Maddison, Reid, Uzokwe, Smid
Replacements: Cornish, Thyer, Davis, Linsell, Newman, Burns, Houston, Bodilly
SAINTS: Baker, Garside, Hendy, Litchfield, Glister, Grayson, McParland; A Waller, Wright, Hill, Vukasinovic, Lockett, Graham (c), Pollock, Moore-Aiono
Replacements: Cruse, Millar Mills, Prowse, Atuanya, Sylvester, Irvine, Arden, Freeman