17 February 2018
Enniskillen Royal travelled to Ballymoney to play Dalriada in the quarter-final of the Danske Bank Schools Subsidiary Trophy, the competition for those teams who were knocked out in the last 16 of the Schools Cup. ERGS were trying to shake off the loss to Ballymena a fortnight before, as well as a few key injuries, and they started well in dry, sunny conditions on a fast pitch.
Breaks by full back, Alex Parke, and left wing, Alex Holder, looked very promising, as did the physicality shown by the forwards. Royal were very quick in getting off their defence line. They put pressure on the home side forcing penalties and working their way down close to Dalriada’s try line. From a line out on the 5 metres the visitors formed a rolling maul and prop, Andrew Humphries, touched down as the maul crossed the line for an unconverted try.
A few minutes later the situation was reversed, with Royal giving away penalties to allow Dalriada up to the ERGS try line. From a ruck on the right, the home side pushed the ball left and wide. Their right wing came into the line and managed to wriggle through a double tackle in the centre field before being brought to ground by Royal’s back row. The ball came loose and bounced kindly into the hands of the Dalriada full back who went over for a try to level the score. Their young hooker converted to make it 7 points to 5.
The game was only 12 minutes old at this stage and both sides were showing flair in attack and good organisation in defence. Royal were making good breaks in the centre and dominated the mauls while Dalriada kicked accurately for position and had the upper hand in the set pieces. There was certainly no lack of intensity, passion or effort from the two teams, but both made handling errors, and both failed to convert penalty kicks. The game see-sawed from end to end with neither team managing to make the crucial breakthrough needed to clinch the match, and it finished with Dalriada hanging on to win by those 2 points.
On paper Enniskillen should have edged this game, even with the away draw, and no doubt there will be many “if’s” for this very talented side to consider as the season draws to an end. They will, no doubt, be bitterly disappointed not to have progressed further in the Danske Bank series but the statistics will show that they had a very successful season outside that competition, having lost only one game, (and that by just one point). They put all their usual rivals to the sword, played an exciting brand of entertaining rugby and were in the top 8 in Ulster Schools ranking, something that hasn’t been achieved by an Enniskillen side for many a long year.