Blackrock College, Dublin have an enviable rugby pedigree. They won the inaugural Irish Schools cup competition in 1887 and have won it a further 59 times since. The junior side have won the Junior Schools cup 50 times. Perhaps more importantly the current Enniskillen Royal School had never scored against them in two years and 80 minutes of rugby. That changed in Dublin on Saturday.
Enniskillen made the journey down to Dublin with high hopes that improvements to the structure and style of their play would provide them with the attacking options to score tries. The addition of Sam Milligan to the squad and his consistent performances at fullback has allowed coach Stephen Bothwell to tweak the back line and results have followed.
Ennsikillen kicked off and applied immediate pressure to the Blackrock ball carriers. Enniskillen pushed play back into the Blackrock twenty-two and forced a penalty for themselves. Scrum-half Matthew Bothwell passed out to Eddie Keys who played Stephen Balfour in on a tight running line. Stephen managed to find a gap in the Blackrock defence and ran through for the first try of the game.
Blackrock showed their class and played the game with increased intensity after the restart. David Stinson, Henry Keys and Callum Smyton tackled unrelentingly from this point on and Matthew Wilson and Zak Havers provided good support at the breakdown. The Blackrock attack played tactically and soon found themselves with an overlap out on the wing. They distributed the ball well and the inevitable try was scored.
The rest of the first half followed in a similar manner. Jason Bothwell and Sam Balfour tackled very well on the wings and Taine Haire chased every slim opportunity. However the best defence that Enniskillen had played all year was not enough to bridge the difference between the two teams and Enniskillen went in 40-5 down at half time.
Blackrock restarted the second half and once again found themselves under immediate pressure from the Enniskillen team. Enniskillen tackled Blackrock into touch and forced a lineout on the Blackrock 5 m line. Having lost the lineout David Stinson charged down the Blackrock attempted clearance and Eddie Keys was on hand to tap down for the first try of the second half.
Blackrock were quick to reply to make the score 47-12 but couldn’t stop Enniskillen scoring the next. Pressure at the scrum led by Matthew Graham, Ryan Phair and Justin White supported by intelligent play by Eddie Keys once again pushed Blackrock back into their own corner. Matthew Bothwell sold his opposite number and dummy and slipped through to make the score 47-17.
Blackrock tightened up their game from that point onwards and were able to score a further three trys with no reply. Ben Davis, John Elliot, Adam Sanderson, Charlie Donaldson and Hugo Graham all played a role in finishing out the half.
Playing Blackrock is always a fantastic opportunity for the Enniskillen U-14 team to test themselves against the best in Ireland and this time proved no different.