Match report RBAI vs ERGS
Final score 0-67
Having had a weekend off following the failure of Limavady to field a team for the planned away fixture, it was with a quiet determination that the ERGS boys travelled to Belfast for the much awaited game against RBAI. With some great training sessions over the past 2 weeks where work on the technical aspects of the game received the focus, Captain Bothwell and his team felt ready for whatever they would face.
Like Campbell 2 weeks previously, RBAI carry a long history of schools rugby success with 32 School’s Cup wins, 32 Medallion shield wins and boasting to be Irelands leading school in the production of senior International players as well as players for the British and Irish Lions. With the ability to produce 3 teams at U14 level and with excellent facilities to hand, it was of no surprise to the ERGS 15 when they arrived to have the pleasure of playing on an excellent surface, fit for running fast rugby. Carrying a few injuries to key personnel, such as Clarke and Aiken up front, the Enniskillen 15 knew from the start that this was going to be a game where the whole squad would get a chance to contribute on what was a windy and cold morning.
With the talent, skill and teamwork to play against any side, this competitive and undefeated ERGS U14 team took to the pitch champing at the bit to have the opportunity to get stuck into another of the Provinces leading schools and send a further message ‘East of the Bann’, that these ERGS boys meant business when they pulled that jersey over their heads. However, disappointment soon hit, when it became clear that this ‘giant’ of schools rugby, had decided to pull out their ‘B’ team, clearly underestimating and showing a somewhat lack of respect and planning, for the quality of the opposition that they were about to face.
This team have a deep desire and will to win, importantly they want to do this against the best opposition that is out there. Their season to date has been one of progression and of learning and they know that they have to earn the respect of others to get access to the best teams and for this they are willing to be patient.
This morning they felt that they had already earned that right, but clearly RBAI thought differently, and so with a few quiet words and a stoking of the fire in the belly, the ERGS boys, led by Bothwell, walked onto the ‘hallowed’ RBAI turf determined to lay down a marker that would not only be noticed, but would also be carried out with some style.
With ERGS kicking off down a slight hill and with a sharp wind blowing left to right, Love floated a beautiful kick which was chased hard and taken expertly by Harte on the right wing. Instantly ERGS had the ball and the next 90 secs went some way to show the home support that their boys were in for a very very tough morning. Courtney at 13, supporting well, made further ground from the catch by Harte and further carries by Hetherington and Aiken punched holes in the somewhat shocked home defence. It was on the 8th phase of play that Love received the blind pass from Hamill to release the machine gun kid, Carrothers who with 3 men to beat, spun and powered his way for the first score of the game. The kick was just short by Love. A total team try where RBAI were just simply blown to pieces. 5-0
From the restart, the wonderful Seaman collected and made the early yards. With secure ball, Hamill fed Love who placed a lovely downfield kick to take play back into the RBAI half. With aggressive chasing, RBAI were penalised for ‘holding on’ under the pressure and Love again put foot to ball to bring play into the 22. The resultant lineout ended with a knock on by ERGS and for the first time in the game the home side had the ball. Setting for the scrum ERGS looked confident and sure enough they easily pushed the home 8 back and won what was to be the first of many scrums against the head. Held nicely at the feet of Smyton, the ball was perfectly presented for the ERGS backs, who made no mistake in getting the ball out with precision to Carrothers who outstripped the defence to score out wide for his second of the game. 10-0, the home support was already looking nervous and suitably so as more was to follow.
The restart was taken brilliantly by the giant hands of Holmes, who on only his second outing into schools rugby looked totally at home in the ERGS engine room. With the ball set up beautifully, Hamill was having a field day feeding the runners, who were all hungry for the ball. With some great carries by Kerr, Smyton and Clarke, the ball was beautifully moved and worked up the pitch. Every home player who dared to come close to the ball was being dealt with effectively by Graham and Seaman who clearly had been listening over the past 2 weeks at training. With some patience and guile, Love again went blind. Carrothers who was scaring the life out of the opposition had the chance for another dance down the wing, this time he was stopped but Graham, who was covering every inch of grass, was right on his shoulder to receive the offload and run clear for another lovely team score. Love added the points. 17-0 up and totally dominant, the ERGS boys had started well.
The rest of the half was simply like groundhog day.
With the weather holding dry, Holmes again received the restart right into the bread basket. Clearly his past life as a goal keeper to a high level was showing some very useful and transferable skills!! Making some initial yards Holmes presented the ball back perfectly to his support and what followed was a beautiful and wonderful 18 mins of rugby where ERGS were to score another 3 tries and a total of 19 points, leaving the half time score 36-0.
The first of the tries went to the towering figure of Holmes after another spell of rugby where pretty much every player was involved. Strong gains from Carrothers, Smyton, Graham and Love who all were playing direct, hard rugby, brought play into the RBAI 22. Here things were cleverly slowed down, showing that at this point ERGS were in total control. From a steady ruck, Hamill fed the charging Holmes who was clearly playing with his tail up. His size and strength with the added power of Kerr forcing him forwards, was just too much for the home defence and it was with some delight he touched down for his first score in an ERGS jersey. Hamill added the points. 24-0
The second score came via the ever present Love. With the restart gathered and once again secured and with such quality ball coming back, Hamill and Love were in their element continually pegging RBAI back into their own half with some accurate kicking and this pressure soon led to a further breakdown inside the home half. ERGS, who had not rucked well against Campbell, 2 weeks ago, were certainly making up for things this week. The pack, who were on fire, were simply devastating in the loose with Kerr, Seaman and Graham visibly leading the charge. With some excellent ball retention, play was brought towards the centre of the pitch just outside the RBAI 22. With the move called, Love received a go forward pass from Hamill which he took at pace and with his growing ability to spot the smallest of gaps, he stepped the oncoming defence to break through and cross the line for his first score of the day. Hamill added the extras. 31-0
At this stage of the game, the ERGS boys were somewhat startled to see a one man pitch invasion from a local resident who had taken umbrage at the conversions clearing the protective fencing and landing in his garden. Calling for the game to be stopped for ‘health and safety’ reasons, this clearly rugby loving gentleman looked at one point as though he wanted to join the lineout. After refusing to join the game, he seemed happy when he was informed that the ball would be kicked ‘more gently’ in future. Nowt as strange as folk!!
The final score of the half was a beauty. Once again it was born out of an ERGS team who were incredibly determined and focused on the job at hand. With the home side having a rare opportunity with the ball in hand they tried to run it through their backs. Unfortunately for them they faced the rock solid defence of Bothwell and Courtney, who are building what is becoming a very interesting partnership in the centre. Relishing the opportunity to get physical, Bothwell planted a massive tackle on the oncoming striped jersey causing the ball to spill. RBAI managed to collect but Love was there in a flash to rip it clean from the arms of the startled home player. With the brief attack halted, ERGS once again settled with the ball in hand and after a few phases of attractive rugby, Harte was released on the right wing to floor the throttle and score another great team try. 36-0
The second half started with a distinct change in the weather, the wet stuff had decided to fall pretty heavily but this was not to dampen the drive of the ERGS boys to ram this game home with some further conviction. Elliott came on for Harte, Magee swapped with Burns, Duncan arrived in the front row for Clarke and Nelson replaced Aiken.
The first few minutes of the second half gave ERGS their first opportunity to feel a little pressure as a recharged RBAI side decided to play some rugby inside the ERGS 22. However, this was to only last for a very short time as ERGS were just too strong for the RBAI attack. A huge hit by Nelson, who has trained very well this week, pretty much sorted things out as he rattled a few teeth on the first home player who dared to approach the visitors line. A short kick through was touched down by Smyton and from the next phase of play, ERGS never looked back.
The 22 dropout was collected somewhat by accident by the onrushing Love, who taking everyone by surprise managed to run the length of the pitch to score under the posts. Hamill added another 2 points. 43-0
Like the first half, ERGS simply dominated all aspects of play, the only difference being the heavy rain. This did affect the handling a little, however, it didn’t slow the progress of the visitors or their wish to run the ball through the phases and the hands. The next score took a few minutes to come as a few mistakes were starting to slip in as things got slippy. However, it did come from a great bit of individual skill by Magee at 15. The home side who had been under some pressure managed to launch a big kick down into the ERGS 22. Magee with the rain in his face fielded this kick with some aplomb and decided to test out the opposition. On the run he sank a thunderous return kick from just outside his own 22, deep into the opposite 22. With a wonderful chase, he made the tackle on the receiver and from this play and pressure ERGS soon found themselves back with the territorial advantage. After 2 phases of quick ball, Hamill fed the solid frame of Duncan with a pop pass who showed his considerable strength to power over the line, well supported by his fellow heavyweights. Unfortunately he was deemed to be held up which was a shame as Duncan has been improving every week and this score would have been well deserved. With the 5m scrum easily won, Hamill and Love went blind with a training ground move and before the home side had realised, Carrothers had the ball and had scored his hat trick. Well done Sam!!! 48-0
The next score was to come straight from the restart where once again the safe hands of Holmes started things off. This time he managed to make considerable ground against a now, not so willing home defence and the momentum he created released Love in support to score his hat trick. Well done Darragh. Hamill popped over another kick. 55-0
By now the rain had everyone soaked through and pretty cold but the ERGS fire was not yet put out. With RBAI deciding this time not to restart the game by kicking down the throat of Holmes, they sent the ball towards our very own Billy Elliott. Smyton had been having a superb game and as pack leader he was leading by example, not only in his play which was exceptional from the back of the scrum, but importantly in his attitude. Demanding respect for the opposition at all times he was a forceful voice along with his captain Bothwell during the entire game on their combined expectations of how the ERGS squad represented themselves and their school.
Taking the ball in terrible conditions inside his own 22, Billy set off. Weaving and jigging his way through the halfway line by now he had a full head of steam up and was looking impressive. At the opposition 22 he managed to ride out a ridiculously high challenge and a further tackle 5m out from a despairing home defence to score a great individual try under the posts. Michael Flatley, eat your heart out. Hamill converted, score 62-0.
The final score of the game came from further ERGS pressure through some superb phases of play where once again the whole team was involved. The rugby was a delight to watch given the conditions and soon ERGS had a 5m penalty. With things looking ominous for the home defence a simple pop and go to the still hungry Holmes seen him crash over the line with plenty of ERGS and RBAI jerseys attached, for him to score his second try of the game. Magee just slipped the kick wide. Final score 67-0.
This win was a true squad performance where every boy contributed a valuable role during a game where the ERGS boys played some lovely, flowing, running rugby. Yes, we were totally dominant. Yes, we were always in control. Yes, there was disappointment at not getting the opposition we wanted or indeed had earned the right to play. However, every game presents learning opportunities and this one was no different. The ERGS squad set out to do a job and they stuck to the task at hand. They played their phases, attractive rugby and importantly won as a team, not as a group of individuals and for that they should be delighted. The backline had a storming game given the conditions and the pack was ruthless and decisive in everything it did.
Credit must go to the RBAI boys who knew from the first 90 seconds that they had bitten off way more than they could chew, but they kept going and battling to the end, despite having a very tough morning. The game was played in good spirits with very few penalties, it was well refereed and at the final whistle the ERGS boys certainly had sent the message that they wanted to send.
Next week it is Omagh at home, a team we didn’t play last year due to weather. An exciting opportunity to play one of our closest neighbours!!!