FRUSTRATED Yorkshire Carnegie had to settle for just a draw last night after a slightly bizarre contest against Ealing Trailfinders.
Academy winger Reon Joseph, on debut for Ealing, scored his second try in the 79th minute, allowing Peter Lydon to convert and level a game the hosts had dominated for large periods.
Carnegie’s Stevie McColl had a 55m penalty to win it deep in injury-time but his effort just fell short.
However, they were furious when, with Ealing down to 14 men after replacement scrum-half Calum Waters was sin-binned for deliberately knocking the ball into touch on the hour, they had the visitors under intense pressure with a series of 5m scrums.
Referee Adam Leal continued to re-set when the hosts were on top and – at 23-16 – a penalty try seemed certain. It never came, though, and Ealing recovered to rescue a draw.
Rearranged after being postponed during the bad weather last month, James Lowes’ side must have felt they had a fine chance of victory here given the number of changes the visitors made.
Clearly, Ealing did have one eye on Saturday’s British & Irish Cup semi-final against Bedford Blues, making a dozen changes and bringing only four replacements.
Carnegie also played on Saturday, suffering a disappointing defeat at bottom-placed Rotherham Titans, but Lowes made only a handful of alterations to his side.
It looked as if they might be suffering from the aftermath of that as Ealing – with so many fresh legs – started at a pace.
Carnegie, in fact, were fortunate perhaps not to have a yellow card brandished against them inside the opening five minutes after conceding a raft of penalties.
Leal did speak to captain Richard Mayhew before Ealing moved it wide for Joseph to wrap around to his opposite flank and score his opener.
Lydon converted and then slotted two long-range penalties in quick succession as Carnegie continued to infringe. One was for a chaser being caught in front of the runner. No one was really sure what the second was awarded.
Despite Carnegie moving forward in the scrum, Ealing gained yet another penalty in the 13th minute but this time Lydon struck a post from 52m out.
There was ironic cheers as the hosts finally won a penalty of their own – only to see Tom Bullough penalised for not releasing at first-phase ball from the resulting line-out.
Nevertheless, the centre soon made up for that indiscretion as Lowes’ side did finally get in Ealing territory and duly scored, Bullough supporting a lovely sniping run from scrum-half Oli Fox in the 16th minute.
McColl converted but continued ill-discipline saw No8 Richard Beck – having just signed a new one-year deal – sin-binned five minutes later, Leal finally losing patience.
Despite being down to 14 men, Carnegie saw McColl convert a penalty instead but that was soon cancelled out by Lydon after Elder suffered an embarrassing and farcical mix-up at the other end of the field when trying to negate a kick.
McColl’s second penalty kept them in touch, however, and somehow his side eventually went in at the break 20-16 ahead after he converted hooker Mike Mayhew’s injury-time try, the hooker coming up with the ball after a rumbling driving maul.
McColl put Carnegie 23-16 ahead with another penalty in the 56th minute but Ealing fought back to draw.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder; Watkins, Dunne, Bullough, McColl; Forsyth, Fox; Beech (Thraves 67), M Mayhew, Mitchell (Bryce 76), Whetton (Ward 76), Smith (West 39), Bainbridge, R Mayhew, Beck. Unused: Newborn, Mann, Davey.
Ealing Trailfinders: Lydon; Mantella, Lewis Jones, Robling, Joseph; Penberthy (Clements 70), Grant-Adamson (Waters 52); Sears Duru, Lawrence, Rodman, Curry, Llewelyn Jones, Temm, Ellis, Stedman (Hallam 71).
Referee: Adam Leal (RFU)