A tougher test was expected from Coleraine Grammar, a school with a similar ranking to ERGS, but we have to remember the two and a half hour bus journey the young players had to endure. That said, ERGS gave one of their best performances of the season, a very timely display considering their first round Cup match against Foyle in Derry, in two weeks.
Enniskillen were on top from the outset. Good forward carries were the early orders of the day. Matthew Wilson, Ben Davis and Matthew Beatty were excellent, going in low and hard with energetic leg drive while great footwork was key to the metres gained by Tom Pendry, Michael Rooney and John Fitzpatrick. Half-backs Matthew Bothwell and George Foster kept an eye open for the space those drives exposed and, by foot and hand, made good gains to keep Coleraine well inside their own half.
The first try came at the end of a sustained attack on the visitor’s line. Sitting just outside Coleraine’s 22m line Foster put a kick into the corner that, at first, seemed to be too long. It stopped a half metre inside the touch line where winger Jason Bothwell swooped in to touch down. It would be hard to find a better execution of the cross-field kick in the Pro 14 ! Foster converted for a 7 points lead.
The match continued with ERGS sticking to a fairly successful formula of forward pods mixed with “pick & go”.
The back row of William Dowson, Henry Keys and captain, Pendry were playing their part in the carries but, more importantly, were stifling all Coleraine attacks reducing them to long kicks upfield into the eager arms of the ERGS full back, Taine Haire. Haire needs little excuse to attack with the ball and his jinking runs put the visitors straight back into defensive mode. The forward surges continued, well disciplined and effective. At the end of a number of such phases prop, Matthew Beatty, drove over for a second Royal try which Foster converted.
The pattern continued through the remainder of the match although Bothwell and Foster began to make better use of their backline. Despite some early dropped balls the handling was good and the running lines even better. A try each for the two centres, Angus Frazer and Thom Morton, sealed the match for ERGS and provided excellent entertainment for the spectators. The subs that came on for ERGS made good use of the short time they were given. Andrew Patton, at scrum half, kept up a high level of service while Ryan Daly, Zac Havers, Henry Hutchinson and in particular, Albert Gauley continued to pound the opposition forwards. Better linkage from the latter two forwards would add enormously to their effectiveness. No such difficulty for the two replacement backs, Sam Balfour and James McKee as their quick handling helped bring about the last two scores.
These final two tries were a minor triumph for full team rugby. Backs making breaks, forwards crashing up through the midfield and support for ball carrier on both flanks. Wing Ben Donaldson, having another sound game, touched down at the end of very swift handling for the first score with James McKee putting himself in the right position to complete the second. Angus Frazer narrowly missed both conversions and the game finished at 36 points to nil in favour of Enniskillen.
ERGS face Portadown away next weekend followed by their Cup match against Foyle. The manor of this comprehensive win for ERGS 2ndXV must give the squad considerable confidence approaching those matches as well as suggesting a level of expectation for the 3rdXV who will soon be starting their own Cup run.
Try scorers:- Jason Bothwell, Matthew Graham, Ben Donaldson, Thom Morton, Angus Frazer, James McKee.
Conversions:- George Foster (3).