If you were trying to gauge the strength and depth of Enniskillen Royal’s senior rugby squad you might well look at their 3rdXV who had their third outing of the season this weekend and their third win.
It is heartening to see Royal field a third senior team once again. It has been quite a few years since Raymond Clarke threw his considerable energy into persuading the boys to come out and play for a thirds team. With a senior squad of almost 60 players it is considerably easier for the current generation of school coaches who now have the luxury of naming a team based on performance rather than availability and, as you would expect, the team’s results are also much more encouraging.
The opposition this weekend came from Banbridge Academy who were also fielding a third XV for the first time in some years. The visitors started well and pressed Royal back into their own 22. The home side defended solidly and regained possession through some tough rucking. The front row of Adam Edwards, Tom Pendry and James Graham made strong carries but a lack of organisation at the back of the rucks put scrum half, Finbar McCann, under considerable pressure. Fortunately, he was up to the task and shortly afterwards he was able to feed Craig Johnston at out half whose fast and accurate passes released centre, Curtis Coalter. Coalter has both searing pace and strength, once he broke the first tackle he ran away from the Banbridge defence to open the scoring for Royal.
The match was, from then on, a very one-sided affair. Coalter scored again a few minutes later before being rested and Royal ran in another four tries in the first half to bring the score to 40 points to nil, including five conversions by out-half Johnston. The home forwards were hugely dominant during this period with Kyle Davis, Michael Rooney and Ryan Daly joining the front row trio to compete for most metres carried. Between them they made a number of impressive breaks many of which resulted in scores. No. 8 Sam Frazer also did his share of carrying but, as ever, it was his defensive work that was most impressive.
In a “friendly” match there is little benefit to either team in one side running up a cricket score. It is the official’s duty, within the rules of the sport, to see that players get full enjoyment from the game of rugby so with regular substitutions for the home side and judicious refereeing a brave Banbridge side made their way back into the game in the second half. Matthew Totton found himself in several different positions during this period and handled them all with no small measure of success. Angus Frazer is another player whose skill levels and speed are making him a good utility player. Ollie Goodall showed blistering speed on the wing while the “old heads” of Ben Donaldson at full back and Jack Deane at first centre maintained a level of calm and composure that prevented a slightly disjointed game descending into disarray.
A determined Banbridge managed to cross Royals line twice in the last period of the game to notch up a well deserved 10 points while the home side continued on relentlessly scoring four more tries to make the final result 62 – 10 in favour of Enniskillen. This was not a perfect performance by any means; a lack of control at the rucks, a back line that was far too shallow and a number of players that failed to spot or to use substantial overlaps are areas that need to be worked on if the 3rdXV are to compete successfully at a higher level. There is certainly no shortage of ability within this team so we must hope there is also the willingness to learn and the determination to succeed.