The British & Irish Cup final ultimately proved a bridge too far for a predominantly young Leinster ‘A’ side who went down 22-7 to the impressive Ealing Trailfinders at Vallis Way, writes Jonathan Landi.

Trevor Hogan, who was in charge of Leinster ‘A’ today in the absence of Noel McNamara, said afterwards: “We gave 100% and I’m really proud of the lads. We put ourselves in a great position in the first half (trailing 10-7). However, a couple of things didn’t go our way in the second period and Ealing showed the quality of their all-round game.

“There was a crucial 10-12-minute period in the second half when things didn’t quite go our way. Our discipline let us down (with two yellow cards), and from then on, it became increasingly difficult.”

Leinster ‘A’ certainly met fire with fire for the first half with the quality of their defence, and they often succeeded in stopping Ealing on the gain-line with a lion-hearted approach in the London rain.

The province’s kicking game was on the money and Ben Ward, Ealing Trailfinders director of Rugby, conceded that the visitors ‘won every scrap’ during this spell. Captained by hooker Bryan Byrne, Leinster ‘A’ were also in ascendancy in the tight in the early exchanges.

A confident start saw the men in blue get on the front foot as early nerves seem to affect Ealing more, but ultimately they could not make the final pass pay as defences were largely on top. It was first blood to Ealing after Leinster ‘A’ were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle, and their Bristol-bound full-back Luke Daniels duly hit the target with the penalty attempt.

However, the visitors responded magnificently. They literally backed Ealing into a corner and, after the hosts were penalised for offside, they initially tried to farm the catch and drive. The momentum was continued via a series of pick-and-goes before centre Conor O’Brien forced his way over from close range. Ciaran Frawley added the extras for a 7-3 lead.

However, Ealing slowly but surely gained ground. Leinster ‘A’ again defended well from the catch and drive as the hosts’ maul crabbed sideways. Ealing, who finished as runners-up to Bristol in the English Championship, also missed a sitter when the ball was spilled over the line.

Eventually something had to crack and it did. A five-metre scrum, on 36 minutes, wheeled slightly and Ealing scrum half Luke Carter forced his way over. The successful conversion made it 10-7 to Ealing at the break.

The closing 40 minutes became increasingly one-sided and, with Ealing in the ascendancy in most areas, they continued to ratchet up the pressure. Disaster struck as Leinster ‘A’ suffered successive sin-binnings in a five-minute spell. Replacement prop Peter Dooley (technical) and winger Tommy O’Brien (foul play) were yellow carded after 55 and 60 minutes respectively.

Ealing cashed in and a superb dart and carry from winger James Cordy Redden set up centre Joe Munro for the second try. The bill continued to mount up and, with Leinster ‘A’ by now reduced to 13 men, the visitors were unable to cope with an Ealing forward surge which led to a popular score for outgoing captain Mark Bright.

Leinster ‘A’ tried hard to rally in the closing stages. But they were chasing the game and, with handling errors creeping in, there was no way back against a side which has a formidable record in all competitions on home turf.

REFEREE: Craig Evans (WRU)