Ealing Trailfinders have changed their tune and congratulated Newcastle on their Gallagher Premiership promotion after threatening last Sunday week to possibly sue if the Falcons were allowed go up without the season finishing on the field. 

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Rugby in England at all levels below the Premiership for the 2019/20 season was terminated on March 20 by the RFU due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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It left the Greene King IPA Championship in limbo as there was no indication at the time as to what steps might be taken to decide who would replace the automatically relegated Saracens in the Premiership next season.

Despite Newcastle winning all 15 of their matches and being 18 points clear at the top when the termination happened, Ealing came out all guns blazing and suggested they would not happily settle for second place in a season where they still had eight matches remaining and had a game in hand on the Falcons.

Speaking on March 22 in an interview with The Rugby Paper, Ealing director of rugby Ben Ward revealed: “We’re taking counsel at the moment for a legal perspective as to what our position is. We’ve still got to play Newcastle and we have a game in hand, which is against Yorkshire, so while they look like they are far ahead of us, the gap could quickly close.

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“You look at what’s happening and I get this is a unique situation, but why is Premier League football saying it must preserve the integrity of their competition when we don’t?

“Premiership Rugby aren’t prepared to end their competition yet, so why are we lumping the Championship in with the community game and being told to call a halt.”

Ward’s comments drew a stinging rebuke later that Sunday from Newcastle. “With Ealing actively choosing to use the front page of a national publication to dangle the possible threat of legal action against this review, we no longer feel able to keep quiet,” retorted Dean Richards.

“Difficult decisions have to be made in these unprecedented times when people’s lives and livelihoods are being lost. If Ealing’s primary concern is whether they can bridge the 18-point gap between our two teams to gain promotion, then that reflects very poorly on them considering everything else going on in the world right now.”

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There the matter rested for eleven days until the RFU announced they had applied a best playing record formula to determine final placings for the season. That left Newcastle out on top on 105.5 points, well clear of Ealing in second on 83.42 points. Yorkshire were relegated on a miserly 2.75 points total. 

Newcastle downplayed their top-flight return, chairman Semore Kurdi saying: “These aren’t the circumstances under which any team would want to be promoted, but we thank the RFU for reaching a quick and decisive conclusion.

“We fully appreciate the bigger picture with regards to the ongoing pandemic, and how sport pales into insignificance during times of national emergency.

“With that in mind there is no real sense of celebration at the confirmation of our promotion – our thoughts just go out to everyone who has been affected by the whole situation.”

A tweet of congratulations followed from Ealing, however, burying the acrimony of two weekends ago when Trailfinders said they were taking legal counsel. It read: “Congratulations Newcastle on your promotion back to the Premiership.”

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