Final score: 5-39
ERGS U13’s returned after the Halloween break to welcome Coleraine to Castle Lane in great conditions for a game of rugby. Their first home fixture after 6 away on the trot.
With what has been a difficult last few games for the boys they knew again that they would have to step up to the mark against what was reported to be a very strong Coleraine side, determined to play fast and hard rugby.
The coaches had expressed many times over the last 4 training sessions just what was going to be required to bring a game to Coleraine and there had been some intense focus on defensive organisation and up front tackling and this had gone well. The boys had also been warned that unless they played the game with intensity from the whistle and that deep down self belief that they are good enough, they would be in for a tough morning.
ERGS kicked off through out half Love and before you could say ‘Jack Rabbit’ Coleraine had recycled the ball several times to score under the posts. ERGS had been caught sleeping by a team who had just travelled for 2 hrs. Not a good or to be honest, an acceptable start. From the restart Enniskillen were awarded a scrum within the Coleraine 22. A good push secured the ball and with a training ground move called by Love, the ball was delivered from Hamill to Love going blind at pace and with a simple pass to Carrothers he managed to finish beautifully to even up the score. Unfortunately this was to be the only real beacon of hope in what then became the Coleraine show for all but the last 5 mins of the half. The opposition ran with confidence and determination at what was at times a very passive ERGS defence. The ferocity shown in training was only replicated by a handful of players who seemed to be the only players wanting to put in the effort that was required and had been asked for. Captain Bothwell tackled well at inside centre and tried his best to lead by example but his pack were quiet and just not committed enough. Coleraine were without doubt a well drilled and physical team with a solid and impressive pack, however, ERGS lack of grit and physicality at the breakdown made things easy for them at times. It was pleasing to see that the defensive line around the breakdown had definately improved from Wallace, but too often the tackles were too high and not hard enough and this played into Coleraine’s hands. The boys need to realise that good line speed needs to be followed up with solid tackling to gain the benefit.
Coleraine ran in 2 more tries during the first half, showing excellent ball handling and retention. They moved the ball well and certainly had the sluggish ERGS defence out wide exposed. As the half came to a close ERGS did manage to up the tempo somewhat and showed the very good home support (which is very welcome) that they could take the game to Coleraine. They rucked and tackled with more zip and the ball was distributed more effectively by Hamill at scrum half who at last was getting some ball from a pack moving forward. Aiken, Smyton and Courtney tried hard to get into the game and this phase of played showed the boys that it is much easier to play front foot rugby. It was unfortunate that this effort was not rewarded on the score board but credit to Coleraine for some thumping tackles, which halted progress for the ERGS boys.
The second half started much more brightly for ERGS who actually started to play with their tails up, they moved the ball well, possession was being retained with more regularity and the work on the training ground was actually being put into action. For 10-15mins ERGS were the more dominant side and it was only through continued excellent defence by Coleraine that no score was added. Following a series of great rucks and powerful running around the breakdown from the pack, Hamill popped to Hetherington on the blind side who was a whisker away from securing 5 points. ERGS continued to press and Carrothers and Smyton were unlucky not to also get across the line for points. Just like at the end of the first half the hard work, territory and possession from ERGS was not rewarded and the impressive Coleraine continued to soak up the pressure.
It was unfortunate to lose the hard working Hetherington through a head injury in the last 10 mins, however, I’m sure he was impressed with coach Clarke’s bandaging skills.
ERGS had done well in the second half and it had looked at one point that if they had taken their opportunities, the final score could have been quite different.
However, a raft of substitutions in the crucial last 10 mins, created a change and upset that ERGS didn’t cope with and total disorganisation and overall lack of effort led to 3 unforgiveable scores being run in by the visitors, 2 from kick-offs where tackles were just not made.
Writing these reports is fun and I remember the joy at reading them as a school boy myself and looking for your name amongst the text if you had had a good game. Writing them is certainly easier in victory than in defeat.
The final score was perhaps a little unfair on ERGS, however the boys must accept the fact that against a well drilled, large and organised team like Coleraine, they can’t play in fits and starts, it just won’t produce the goods.
All 15 boys on that pitch need to stand up and be counted (not just a handful), to play with the pride, ferocity, passion and determination that we see in training week in and week out. Today that was only on show for 2 periods of the game, where we demonstrated that we can be as good as any team.
Losing is always painful and lessons can always be learnt from these experiences. That is a challenge not only for the boys but the coaches.
The experience is made all the harder when on reflection a lack of basic hard work, importantly not skill or ability, can be partially held accountable. However, it is certainly made easier when on reflection you can say in your heart that a full effort was left on the pitch. Rugby is a tough, physical and demanding game, however it has the ability like no other sport to teach the boys important lessons in life and how to recover from a loss is one of them.
The coaches look forward to seeing a full squad turnout next week for training in preparation for our game on Saturday followed by a fun trip to the Aviva to see Ireland take on Fiji.