Royal’s 2ndXV continued where they left off last week by defeating Regent House 29 pts to 10 at the Eisenhower Playing Fields. Regent were much tougher opposition than Foyle and while they exposed a few frailties in the Fermanagh side Royal were always the likely winners.
The visitors put up very stiff resistance from the start. ERGS spent the entire first quarter of the match inside the Regent 22m line but it took them all that time to make a breakthrough. They were very patience and showed great continuity which was eventually rewarded when hooker, John Fitzpatrick, crossed the line for the opening try, just as he did on the previous weekend. Full back, Craig Johnston, converted.
Royal maintained their dominance, especially in the forwards although Stephen Balfour at first centre looked very dangerous with some scything breaks. Prop, Ally Jones, had been carrying at every opportunity and although he eventually crossed the line he paid a heavy price as he was taken to A&E by ambulance in considerable pain. As he dived over for his score one of the players landed with his knee in Jones’s back, fortunately an x-ray showed no permanent damage. Jones was replaced by Matthew Beatty from the 1stXV bench who put in a man of the match performance. His strength, spatial awareness, timing and passing skills mark him out as one to watch. Royal led by 17–0 at half time.
Over the last couple of years ERGS has been developing a 3rdXV, last season’s team reached the 3rdXV Schools Cup Semi-finals. Unfortunately, there are not many schools in the south west that can field a third side and the result is a large Royal 2ndXV squad with all the players in need of precious game time. In bringing on 9 subs at halftime to help fulfil that need continuity was bound to suffer. Regent took advantage and made the second half much more challenging for ERGS who assisted them by failing to retain hard won ball and by giving away a string of needless penalties.
Although Ben Donaldson, with great footwork, crossed the line for the home side early in the half Regent capitalised on Royal’s errors to score two tries of their own, both from close range.
Captain, Tom Pendry, cajoled and encouraged his team and boosted by super-subs, Sam Fraser, Albert Gauley and Matthew Little they hit back with tries for both Fraser and Gauley.
The key to last weeks substantial win was fast movement, slick passing and great ball retention. The speed and passing were still there against Regent but the ball retention was less impressive. There is a fine line between an effective off-loading game and poor ball retention. Royal have a pack that only lost one ball from the rucks they entered in possession so there was no need to try speculative off loads – “when in doubt, go to ground, present and recycle” should be their mantra.
It was still an impressive squad performance with many moments of excellent rugby. Next weekend ERGS face Armagh who will field 1sts, 2nds and 3rds and will be another step up in terms of opposition. Armagh were finalists in last season’s Ulster School’s Cup and will provide a benchmark for Royal in all three divisions.
Try scorers:- John Fitzpatrick, Aly Jones, Ben Donaldson, Sam Fraser, Albert Gauley.
Conversions:- Craig Johnston, George Foster
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