Ealing Trailfinders director of rugby Ben Ward believes Saturday’s hard-fought 27-26 victory over Saracens proves just how competitive his side can be when the Championship season gets up and running.

The 2019-20 runners-up showed no signs of not having played competitively for almost a year at the Trailfinders Sports Ground, as they carried on from where they left off with an outstanding performance against the former Premiership champions. 

Two second-half tries for hooker Alun Walker sealed the win for the hosts in front of England head coach Eddie Jones, with Red Rose No.8 Billy Vunipola one of the Sarries players in action. 

Ward was left beaming after the impressive victory over Mark McCall’s side and wants to use the result as a benchmark for the season ahead. 

“We’ve beaten London Irish in a cup final, Newcastle a few weeks ago and Sarries is another step up. We want to be having those results consistently,” Ward said. 

“That was our first competitive game in 11 months. We’re competitive, even this competition we want to win it, then we’ll look at the league and we want to win that.

“We’re starting to show that we are narrowing the gap. Today is a decent statement, it’s not easy but we want to challenge ourselves and until we win the league we haven’t earned the right to go up.”

The two sides were going head to head in a three‑team Trailfinders Challenge Cup competition, which was scheduled as a warm-up towards the start of the upcoming Championship season, which gets underway on March 6. 

The game itself was a topsy-turvy encounter, with Ealing taking the lead through a try from Angus Kernohan before the boot of Will Hooley kept Saracens in touching distance. 

Full-back Elliott Obatoyinbo put Sarries ahead before the break with an expertly executed move from a five-metre scrum, with the visitors holding on to their advantage until the half-time whistle.

The pendulum continued to swing both ways in the second stanza as Walker got his first of the game, before Kapeli Pifeleti responded to keep Saracens in contention heading into the closing stages. 

But Walker’s second score put the hosts into the ascendency, as they kept hold of the advantage despite a late try from Tom Woolstencroft to set up a nervy ending to the 80 minutes. 

The day may have ended in defeat for Saracens, as they get back into action following their relegation from the top tier for breaches of salary cap rules in the last campaign, but there were a number of positives to take from the day’s action. 

None more so than the performance of England international Vunipola, who was featuring in his first match for six weeks as he prepares for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations – set to commence in the first weekend of February. 

"I thought Billy was outstanding, genuinely. He has been brilliant with this young group all week. He has been really positive with them," McCall said.

"It's so hard for an international player to play in a game like this and not get frustrated at times - with your team-mates and with the opposition. But I'm really pleased.

"Billy is just a great club man, he knows the importance of senior players and their influence on the younger players.

"Some of these younger players are just starting their journey and to have someone like Billy to guide them through, stay positive and be supportive, is very good."