The U13’s made the short journey to Dungannon Royal for their 3rd away fixture on the trot. The team took to the field without the influential and hard hitting Seaman, who unfortunately broke his hand against Rainey last week. However, he was ably replaced by McHugh in the second row. ERGS kicked off in somewhat damp conditions, and it was evident right from the off that Dungannon were prepared to run the ball from deep and take every opportunity to stretch an ERGS side, who were looking for their 5th win in a row. After some time to settle, a somewhat sluggish ERGS realised that they had a game on their hands as Dungannon had the best of the first 5 mins, with threats being posed by their pacy backline. ERGS coped very well with some stout defence from Love, Bothwell, Courtney and Carrothers, who had another superb game, this time on the wing. It was after a scrum in their own half that ERGS put together a very fine 8 phases of play, which demonstrated very nicely the work that had been done in training. Quick ruck ball by the forwards, accurate passing by Hamill, and strong running from Aiken brought play to within inches of the Dungannon line. A mess up within the in-goal area was capitalised on by the quick thinking and improving Elliott, who touched down for the first score of the day. Hamill added the extras. The game then swung in favour of the Dungannon side, who continued to have the greater possession and speed. Some fast hands let their strong and dangerous backline loose, and with uncharacteristic missed tackles by the ERGS backs, Dungannon scored under the posts and duly converted. For the rest of the half neither team looked like adding to the score, however ERGS were steadily improving and the back line was putting in the hits, none bigger than that put in by Burns at outside centre. Quite literally the earth shook as he crumpled his dangerous opposite number and, to add to the great tackle, he managed to get on his feet and win the ruck ball. Lovely. The half ended 7-7.
A half time talk from captain Bothwell seemed to wake the ERGS boys up, and slowly the ERGS packs started to dominate their opposite numbers. Smyton and Courtney upped their work rates, and with Hetherington covering the ground very well from second row things started to look better. The intensity and tempo at the ruck improved greatly and ERGS started to swing possession in their favour for the first time in the game. After soaking up some pressure when ERGS again demonstrated some brilliant defence out wide through Carrothers and the impressive Harte, Smyton made a strong run up the centre of the park. Making it to half way after a few quick phases, the pack secured great ball. Hamill, who had distributed well during the game, demonstrated great vision and with speed threw a sublime miss pass, long and wide to his left picking out Carrothers who opened the throttle and with strength, speed and pure grit ran half the pitch to score a very pleasing and well deserved try. Hamill again added the points.
Unfortunately the game then took a nasty turn, with repeated punches thrown at the ERGS boys, some of it targeted and all of it out of order. The Dungannon discipline fell apart and the ref had to work hard at this point to contain the game. A break was taken and it was very pleasing to note that although the ERGS boys were taunted on many occasions, on the whole they managed to maintain their composure with some great leadership by pack leader Clarke and Captain Bothwell. When play resumed it was clear that ERGS were going to end up finishing strongly. The talisman Smyton started to wreak havoc and began to show his ability in the loose. His strong running was very well supported by the rest of the pack and, only for some good covering tackles out wide by Dungannon, both Harte and Carrothers would have been across the line several times. As the game got looser it was from pressure by Harte on his opposite number that a ball was spilled, and Smyton who was first there pounced on his opportunity to pump those strong legs and take off down the right wing. Breaking several tackles and showing a a clean pair of heels he sprinted half the pitch to add a 3rd well deserved try. Hamill narrowly missed the kick.
The game finished with the ERGS boys on top and with their tails up, ending 19-7 to the visitors.
Overall this was a clear demonstration of how the work being done in training is transferring to match day. It was great to see the boys winning steady lineout and ruck ball, running through phases of play, defending solidly, getting the ball to the wings and responding to each other in a positive manner. This game was our toughest yet, and due to its nature could have ended up a mess, but the ERGS boys showed maturity, upheld their discipline and stuck to the task in hand when it was needed, and that was the most pleasing aspect of all.