The U13’s welcomed neighbours Devenish to Castle Lane for the first mid week fixture of the year so far.
In bitterly cold, wet and muddy conditions a good crowd assembled to support both teams as they battled against the elements to keep warm.
Starting with only one change to the side from the great win against Killicomaine last Saturday, namely Graham in at openside to allow Seaman to return to the engine room in place of the ill McHugh, ERGS kicked off to the awaiting Devenish pack.
Some confusion led to ERGS getting hold of the ball through Smyton on the right side of the pitch. After a bit of a charge at the opposition, Smyton set the ruck and the ERGS boys set about heading the play to the left side of the pitch. Several strong runs from Aiken, Love in close and a flash out the line to Elliott on the wing resulted in a ruck out wide on the left. The ball was won and as practiced on the training ground this week the move was called. Hamill changed the direction of play and a simple hands out the line, with every back involved, resulted in Harte crossing the line with only 2 mins on the clock. Hamill slotted the conversion. A great start.
From the kick off the ERGS pack again took the play to Devenish who were not afraid to meet the physical Smyton, head to head. The ball went through several quick phases with superb work by Hetherington and Nelson, 2 boys who have to be commended for quietly and efficiently got on with their jobs over the past few weeks, to allow Hamill to release ‘the Beast’ Smyton down the right side. Quick ball again with effective rucking and support saw the ball flip to the left where after another training ground move, Hamill popped to a flying Aiken who powered his way over out wide on the left, for a well worked team try where every player was involved. Lovely to see. Hamill’s kick just didn’t have the legs.
Devenish, who had tackled well started to now show their rucking ability and only for some loose hands and good line speed from ERGS in defence they certainly would have caused problems. It was from one of these spilt balls that ERGS captain Bothwell who had put in some thumping tackles, pounced and secured the loose ball. The ERGS pack rolled forward with Monaghan making good ground. More quick ruck ball saw the powerful Love, burst through 2 tackles after a flat pass from Courtney and in turn deliver the sweetest of passes to the supporting Graham who squeezed over for the third try. Hamill’s attempt hit the upright.
As the first half came to a close a dominant ERGS continued to play courageous rugby in what were terrible conditions, trying at every opportunity to involve their zippy back-line. Harte was stopped in his tracks twice more by great opposition defence as was Elliott out on the other wing and just the fact that both wingers were getting the ball was testament to the efforts of the boys to try to play expansive rugby. From some loose play out left the ever present Seaman drove at the line and when it looked like he was certain to touch down after doing the hard work, popped the ball to the oncoming Graham who had a nice simple touchdown for his second score. The conversion fell short.
With a good first half behind them, ERGS started the second half against a Devenish side who clearly had received a stern talking too. Some changes to both sides created what was to become a very different 25mins for the gathered support. Clarke came on for Kerr in the front row and J Corrigan replaced Elliott on the wing for ERGS with both walking onto what was becoming a pretty cut up pitch. As play resumed the weather took a down turn and it was clear that both teams were starting to suffer from the cold. This seemed to dampen the ERGS commitment and zip but it certainly didn’t stop the marauding and powerful Devenish runners, who were starting to cause trouble with their direct approach making decent, well deserved ground. ERGS were starting to miss tackles allowing the opposition to get their tails up and for 10 mins Devenish were looking a totally different side. The ERGS defensive structure started to look less secure around the breakdown and the commitment shown in the first half seemed to be deserting the boys. Smyton, Hetherington, Nelson and Seaman in the pack showed that they wanted to get back on top and meet the Devenish boys increased physicality, unfortunately some of the other boys just failed to continue the hard work of the first half. Sloppy play at the breakdown and not listening to the referee caused ERGS to be continually penalised for repeated infringements, therefore losing hard won territory and playing on the back foot.
At this stage ERGS made more changes with Magee coming on for Hamill at scrum half, who moved to fullback and B Corrigan on for Monaghan in the front row. ERGS did continue as best they could to move the ball wide but cold hands and shivering limbs added to the difficulty in making that last pass land in the right place and their efforts were making no ground against a much more effective Devenish defence. As the half progressed further it was clear that if Devenish got the opportunity they were sure to score and score they did. Within 5 mins their strong running winger outstripped the ERGS defence twice to score 2 great individual tries, a just reward for their hard work in the awful conditions. The conversions were narrowly missed.
This game of 2 halves ended 22-10 to the home side and despite the conditions was enjoyed by all the boys. The game was played in good spirits and it was great to welcome Devenish to Castle Lane.
The boys have a break now until they enter into 3 home games in a row starting with Limavady on the 2nd December.