Departing Coach, Rhys Botha, asked for a special effort from his team this week. ERGS lost only one match outside their Cup run last season and that was by a single point to Coleraine away, so Botha wanted the balance to be redressed this season.
Coleraine, who have a similar ranking to ERGS so far this season, came to the Eisenhower playing fields from a recent, tightly contested game against a powerful Ballymena side much fancied for Cup success.
The match, which kicked off with low winter sun in home side’s eyes, started well for ERGS. The first period of the match saw them work their way up to the Coleraine line with mixed forward and back moves. Disappointingly, despite spending a full five minutes inside the opposition red zone, at one time a metre from the line with a penalty in hand, they failed to come away with a point. The visitors came back into the game as we moved to the end of the first quarter partially through well directed kicking but mostly through penalties given away by ERGS. To give away 6 penalties in as many minutes is going to have inevitable consequences and Coleraine duly kicked the last penalty between the post to put the first score on the board.
ERGS, the more powerful of the two sides, moved play back up to the visitor’s try line but, once again, failed to capitalise. Coleraine kicked themselves back down into the ERGS 22m zone and went through a number of phases before winning another penalty. Although eminently kickable, Coleraine opted a quick tap and, by dint of surprise and a couple of missed tackles, scored a try in the corner. A missed conversion left the score at 8-0 in favour of Coleraine.
Following a few more penalties, this time against Coleraine, Royal found themselves on the Coleraine 22m line. They ambitiously decided on a pick and go strategy that brought them to with a metre of the visitors try line where they declined a penalty kick in front of the posts for another set of forward carries that, once again, failed to result in a score.
ERGS changed their strategy in the second half, pushing the ball along the back line and feeding much wider forward pods. This policy left much more space in which the mobile ERGS side could create openings and it was only three minutes into the half before no.8 Callum Smyton went clear to score under the posts. Eddie Keys, at out-half converted to bring ERGS within a point.
The home side continued to mix the play, moving the heavier Coleraine pack around the park. From a scrum close to the posts, scrum-half, Matthew McConkey ran a dummy move to the open side while Smyton broke to the blind and fed wing, Stuart Brown, coming at 45 degrees to charge through the Coleraine defences for a well worked second try. Shortly afterwards Smyton broke from the back of an Enniskillen scrum to feed McConkey who, in turn, fired a wonderful flat pass to ERGS captain, Alex Parke. Parke slipped between two despairing Coleraine defenders and rounded the fullback with ease to touch down for a third try. Keys converted to give Enniskillen an 11 points lead.
Coleraine mustered themselves and forced ERGS to defend for another 8 minutes before an accurate kick from Keys relieved the pressure. Enniskillen remained down in the visitors 22m zone for all but the last few seconds of the game and were a little unlucky not to score a fourth try. At that stage in a game they may need to look at more variations on the number 8 break.
It was a very solid win for ERGS against a strong Coleraine team. Although they eventually varied their game to adapt to the opposition strengths they should, perhaps, have been quicker to do so. A tight, controlled forward game is likely to give the opposition fewer opportunities but whether this young ERGS side has the physical power to win a game with such tactics is debatable. What is less in doubt is their ability to come out on top where the game is loser and, inevitably, more dangerous.
ERGS Try scorers:- Callum Smyton, Stuart Brown and Alexander Parke.
Conversions:- Eddie Keys (2)