How unheralded Ealing rallied for coach Alex Codling to blaze a trail to the brink of the Premiership

 
Bob Baker
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Ealing Trailfinders v Yorkshire Carnegie - Greene King IPA Championship Semi Final
Ealing must overturn a first-leg deficit against Yorkshire Carnegie after losing on Friday (Source: Getty)

Amid the Lions fanfare as well as the focus on the Premiership play-offs and the European Champions Cup final, a story of significance involving a local team based in Perivale has slipped below the radar.

Ealing Trailfinders have, over the past several seasons, risen through the ranks to the Championship to establish themselves as one of the capital’s leading squads.

Yet even if were to beat the rebranded Leeds side now known as Yorkshire Carnegie over a two-legged semi-final and go onto be victorious in the final, they will not be promoted.

Read more: Ollie Phillips: Crunch time for Premiership’s Euro-chasers

Of the four teams competing in the weekend’s semis, only two – Yorkshire and London Irish – have the infrastructure to fulfil Premiership Rugby’s strict criteria and force Bristol out of the top tier.

There is only a 50 per cent chance the top flight will have a different flavour next year, which is all rather dull. It is difficult to argue against from a logistical standpoint, however.

Ealing’s HQ, Vallis Way, is at the end of what is as good as a single track lane, which could well struggle to accommodate the 20,000 Saracens fans that might travel for a new derby.

If Wasps had not moved to the architecturally insignificant city of Coventry, rugby may have found itself a local clash with the geographic proximity of Fulham and Chelsea.

Nevertheless, it was a proud day for rugby folk in W5, with local school St Benedict’s providing two squad members, Jonah Holmes (Yorkshire) and Arthur Ellis (Ealing). In addition, Lewis Thiede (Ealing), Chris Elder and Mayhew brothers Michael and Richard (all Yorkshire) were all local residents during their time at London Wasps.

Ealing retained their position in the Championship by the skin of their teeth last year and have seemingly hugely over-achieved this time around.

Their success found its source in coach Alex Codling, who at the beginning of the season addressed his squad.

With sincerity and integrity, Codling informed the squad of changes in his own personal circumstances that meant that this side would be his family this season. The message resonated, with the men finding that extra reason to dig in for a man they admire.

The ‎Trailfinders cannot achieve promotion; they have even opted not to. In the event, they came up short in Friday’s first leg against Leeds 16-34 despite a remarkable second-half comeback. They could be champions but they have got a mountain to climb.

Either way, rugby is strong in the west London borough, human values are manifested in physical performances, and, ironically, Yorkshire could well have lost were it not for their winger and local Ealing lad Holmes.

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