It was a day to forget for Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup as high-flying English Championship side Ealing Trailfinders claimed a stunning 71-14 victory at the Sportsground.
Ealing's dominant lineout maul, coupled with two yellow cards for the hosts, ensured that Mossy Lawler's Connacht outfit had a huge mountain to climb when trailing by a full 40 points at half-time. They scored from every visit to the Eagles' 22 in the first half.
The Eagles had endured a scoreless second half in Rotherham last week, and they finally strung together a couple of converted tries through forwards Pat O'Toole (53 minutes) and Gavin Thornbury (56), to close the gap to 52-14.
But, the Trailfinders had an unassailable lead and they showed no mercy to the well-beaten westerners with three further tries, taking their final tally to eleven with former Connacht out-half Shane O'Leary landing eight conversions in an impressive individual display.
Australian Andrew Deegan, the province's man-of-the-match in the opening round of the Challenge Cup, missed an early penalty attempt as Connacht Eagles got off to a positive start in sunny conditions, showing good hands between backs and forwards.
However, Ealing quickly got on a roll with four tries scored by the half hour mark. Their well-oiled rolling maul put prop Sam Rodman over for the seventh-minute opener, before Dan Temm's line-break and pass set up winger James Cordy Redden for the first of his three tries.
Another strong lineout drive earned the west Londoners their third try, grounded by hooker Matt Cornish in the 25th minute, and as the one-way traffic continued, centre Lewis Jones registered the bonus point with a terrific run to the line after gathering an audacious offload from Joe Munro.
Ealing's forward power led to Thornbury seeing yellow for collapsing a 37th-minute maul, and just a minute later, Jones joined a maul to complete his brace from close range, leaving Connacht Eagles 33 points adrift.
A sixth try arrived for Ben Ward's men on the stroke of half-time, the Eagles defence – down to 13 men after scrum half Conor McKeon was binned – giving way again as Jones' centre partner Munro crossed via the platform of another powerful maul.
The Trailfinders' clinical performance continued on the resumption with O'Leary's pinpoint cross-field kick teeing up Welsh winger Will Harries for a 42nd-minute try out wide. Connacht finally exerted some pressure in the visitors' 22, but O'Leary initiated one of tries of the day when he swiftly turned defence into attack.
The Cork-born Canadian international threw a dummy and broke out of the Ealing 22 and after Harries took play into the Connacht half, the ball came back to O'Leary who put boot to ball to find Cordy Redden who was able to collect and dot down in the left corner. O'Leary converted for a 52-0 scoreline.
Thankfully for the home support, they had some tries to cheer when a well-worked attack was finished by hooker O'Toole, and Harley Fox then set up Thornbury who showed good strength to run through some tackles and cut the deficit to 52-14. Deegan landed both conversions.
The Eagles had enough time to target a try-scoring bonus point at that stage, but Ealing slammed the door shut with some patient build-up play creating an overlap for Harries to score his second try, entering the final quarter.
Welsh debutant Morgan Allen, who came on for Rayn Smid in the back row, was next over the whitewash in the 74th minute, and there was still time for Cordy Redden to claim his hat-trick in the final play, winning the footrace to a raking Jones kick from inside the Ealing half.
Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)