Enniskillen Royal put out their strongest 2ndXV against Dungannon Royal at the Eisenhower fields this weekend but despite that, the match was a minute away from half time before the visitors defence finally gave way.
The home side had the greater percentage of possession with the gallant Tyrone team only making three incursions into Enniskillen’s half and those were from clearance kicks. With ERGS almost continually on the attack and Dungannon Royal running a very well organised defence for 34 minutes it was a good example of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Although Enniskillen played controlled rugby and dominated play, they were not perfect; they didn’t win one clean lineout, were too slow in support of breaks and failed to spot clear overlaps out wide.
Kyle Hobson, returning from an ankle injury, was in excellent carrying form and although he was well marked, he made good meterage with every carry. The work rate of his young partner in the second row, Ryan Daly, was impressive. The front row of Josiah Johnston, John Fitzpatrick and Andrew Humphries just about held their own against a strong Dungannon front three but were better in the loose. David Patton came on during the game to add bulk and power to the front row and evened things up. Harry Dane, Cormac Boylan and Dylan Johnston in the back row combined well with the wonderful centre partnership of James Balfour and Adam Boles to snuff out any attempt by Dungannon to break out of the stranglehold that Enniskillen had them in during the first half.
Curtis Coalter, on the right wing, made a couple of significant line breaks and undertook some crucial covering work where he was well supported by Conor Goodall and their faultless full back, Josh Kennedy. In the last minute of the half he raced after a speculative chip from his scrum half, Ewan Haire and although he benefitted from a fortunate bounce the minute the ball was in his hands a score was finally on the cards. He zigzagged down the touch line wrong footing his opposite number before cutting inside to beat two despairing cover tackles and score under the posts. Haire converted to bring the first half to a close and to give a relieved Enniskillen side a seven points to nil lead.
The second half started with the fleet footed Albert Gauley joining the back row while Jack O’Hare, returning from concussion protocol, took over at out half from George Foster who continues to grow in stature as the season progresses. At the same time Dungannon’s stalwart defence began to crumble a little. The combination of Haire’s flamboyance and O’Hare’s speed and strength moved the impressive ERGS back line up a gear and gaps began to appear all over the field. Enniskillen ran in five more tries in the next 30 minutes.
As the home side moved the play from side to side, flanker Harry Dane, a player of considerable value to the team, finished an excellent back move as only an ex-winger could. Balfour and Boles chipped in with a try a piece, the first when Balfour sold a dummy to put Boles in under the posts, the second when Balfour crossed the line himself from a quickly taken Haire penalty.
Haire and O’Hare then contrived the simplest of all the scores. An accurate grubber from Haire at the back of a scrum close to the Dungannon line allowed O’Hare to sprint over the line and pounce on the ball. The combination of Haire and O’Hare gives the 2ndXV a strength from numbers 9 to 15 that is truly exciting.
Fatigue and injury obliged Enniskillen to make a good number of substitutions toward the end of the match. As is often the case, no matter how good the quality of the subs, there is always disruption to the team and Dungannon were able to score a push-over try and a scrum-half snipe to give the visitors 12 deserved points. The last try of the match went to winger Conor Goodall who squeezed in at the corner for ERGS and brought up a final score between the two Royal schools of Enniskillen 36, Dungannon 12.
The only slight downside for a team that includes so many players pressing for places on the 1stXV is a tendency for some to glory hunt. An Ulster coach on the side line estimated that at least 4 tries went abegging when simple off-loads would have secured them. If the team can correct that mind set before we reach the Ulster 2ndXV Cup next month you can expect them to provide the establishment with a few surprises.