Yorkshire Carnegie will have an 18-point lead to defend in next week’s Championship play-off semi final second leg after a pulsating 34-16 win over Ealing in the opening leg.
Two tries from Jonah Holmes and one each from Alex Davies and Ryan Burrows proved decisive.
After a fast and furious start, the home side opened the scoring with a 45-metre penalty.
Rory Clegg made no mistake after Yorkshire had been penalised for side entry at the ruck.
But as the half wore on Carnegie continued to grow in the game and after numerous phases near the Ealing line, Holmes spotted a gap in their defence and he charged over under the posts.
Joe Ford made no mistake with the simple conversion.
Moments later a Ford kick behind the Ealing defence caused confusion and as two defenders dithered and left it for each other, Holmes nipped in to score his second try in as many minutes.
Ford added the extra two points.
Sharp thinking and opportunism was at the centre of Carnegie’s third score.
This time ex-Sale fly-half Ford intercepted a Clegg pass and despite being caught by Phil Chesters, his offload found Davies who could crash over against his former club.
Ford nailed his third conversion.
Carnegie were now really into their stride and after Burrows’ marauding run forward created a good attacking platform, the ball was played back to Ford who knocked over a drop goal on 22 metres.
The visitors almost had a fourth try just before half-time, but Ben West dropped the ball with the try line at his mercy and the lead stayed at 21 points heading into the break.
Carnegie then looked to extend their lead to 24 points early in the second period but Ford was just off target with a drop goal attempt on 30 metres.
It was the first blot on what had been an exemplary evening’s work for Ford.
But he made amends in the next passage of play, coolly stroking over a penalty just inside the Ealing half.
A last ditch tackle from Chris Elder prevented Chesters from going over in the corner, but Ealing did not have to wait much longer for their first try.
A Will Harries break from deep carved open the Carnegie defence and he crossed over.
Clegg missed the conversion.
The arrival of Alex Penny into the Ealing front row seemed to stabilise their scrum and having won a penalty in front of the posts Clegg took the points to reduce the arrears to 16 points.
Worse was to come for Yorkshire.
Following phase after phase near their line, Ealing worked the ball out wide and ex-Carnegie man Curtis Wilson dived over.
Fortunately Clegg’s radar remained awry and he missed the conversion.
But having having withstood losts of pressure, Burrows took the ball from the back of a scrum and charged over for a fourth try deep into added time.
Ford added the conversion meaning Carnegie will have an 18-point lead to defend next week.
Ealing: Harries, Wilson, Jones, Munro, Chesters, Clegg, Carter, Gibbons (Davis 45), Walker, Thiede (Penny 62), Maddison (Casson 66), Townson, Murphy, Smid (Ellis 55), Bright.
Carnegie: Elder, Holmes, Forsyth, Lucock, McColl, Ford, Davies (Green 65), Boyce (Beesley 75), Nilson (Mayhew 65), Faletau (Cusack 53), West, Smith (Myerscough 60), Stedman (Beck 65), R. Mayhew, Burrows.