Final score 48-0
On another fine Saturday morning at Castle Lane ERGS hosted the return fixture against Foyle. With almost perfect conditions on a pitch in great condition and with a good home crowd looking on, Captain Bothwell led his side onto the pitch expecting to play a Foyle side hungry to avenge the defeat on their home soil at the start of the season.
Training this week had concentrated on ‘space’. Looking for it, exploiting it and creating it. All critical skills and ones which the boys are beginning to understand and appreciate. It was these skills that led to the early points on the board for the ERGS boys.
It was ERGS who lined up to receive the ball from the boot of the explosive and talented Foyle number 12. With a loud shout the ‘cannonball’ Clarke fielded the kick beautifully and with a few steps gained it was the first ruck of the game. The early exchanges in any game often lay the foundation and it was ERGS who looked the hungrier and more aggressive team in those first few breakdowns. With his pack on top right from the start, Hamill launched a nice kick in behind the Foyle defence bringing play to well within the Foyle 22. The pressure of gaining such good and early territory created problems for the Foyle scrambling defence and for the next few phases things were a tad scrappy. Eventually the ball was knocked on by ERGS in the middle of the park setting up a scrum to the opposition. Taking the physical domination a step further, the ERGS pack began the set piece play in the scrum with some conviction. Taking the ball against the head and spotting the space blind, Love received the ball from Hamill and drawing the last defender, popped the ball to Carrothers, who does what he does best and rounded his somewhat startled opposite number to get the first score of the game. Hamill hit the post with the kick. So a good start from the ERGS boys.
Straight from the restart, ERGS were back at the Foyle boys with some confident running and recycling. The physical dominance upfront was allowing nice secure ball for Hamill who could in turn service Love, giving him time and space to get the back-line moving. With some brave running it was a shame to see the handling let the boys down, especially at the last pass on several occasions, which started to add an element of frustration early on. However, the game was all being played in the Foyle half and it was Monaghan and Hetherington who began to inject some ‘go forward’ momentum to the play. Taking the play to just outside the Foyle 22, Hamill spun left where Courtney found himself in some space. With a nice delayed and well timed pass, he took out the last defender, again releasing Carrothers in space who made the final 20 yards or so to cross the line for his second of the game out wide. Magee had a crack at the difficult kick which just fell left of the upright. 10-0.
With things looking pretty good for the ERGS boys the powerhouse that is the pack leader, Smyton, brought play straight back at Foyle from the restart. With his typical ballerina performance he danced his way to within a hairs width of the try-line. When another 5 points looked certain he passed to the oncoming Clarke, who had worked hard to get into the perfect support position and with all the hard work done, he unfortunately dropped the ball over the line. What a shame, but it can happen so easily. From the resultant 5m scrum Foyle managed to clear their lines bringing some relief for themselves.
The remainder of the half, has to be said, left a lot to be desired. With the penalty count, once again mounting ERGS started to make hard work of things. With a total of 10 penalties given against them for repeated infringements including late tackles, hands in the ruck, not rolling away and for offside they clearly had not learned the lessons from last weeks game. Although still totally dominant in the scrum, in loose play and in the tackle the boys created too many issues for themselves that allowed a brave and hard working Foyle side to keep in the game and only for some good organised defence, they would have punished the ERGS team. With 4 clear try scoring opportunities wasted and the game being played almost exclusively in the Foyle half of the pitch ERGS should have been closing the game out by half time, however, instead they found themselves 10-0 up, against a Foyle side who were still in the game.
Some strong words were exchanged at the interval and it was quite a different ERGS side that lined up to chase the restart kick by Love. With that mental switch flicked back to ‘positive’ for the next 25 mins the ERGS boys cleaned up their act, sharpened up their minds, improved their control, cranked up the grit and simply ransacked the Foyle boys to score an impressive 38 points in the second half.
The first points came from strong running by Seaman, Harte and Hetherington. Sharp and effective rucking from Graham, Smyton and Aiken and slick passing from the back-line. After a few phases of play ERGS found themselves deep within the Foyle 22, out to the right of the pitch. A pick and drive by the ‘engine’, created the platform. The ball was spun left, through the hands to eventually end up in the hands of Carrothers who crossed for his hat-trick out on the left of the pitch. A good team try taken with confidence and spirit. Hamill added the difficult conversion.
Straight from the kick-off, Love gathered and with a look of determination that would have melted ice, he brushed off the first tackler, sped past the second on the outside and outpaced the others to score under the posts. A nice individual try from a guy who spills his heart and guts every week for this team. Hamill added the extras.
Elliott, who had impressed at training this week, came on for Harte out wide and Duncan, again a player improving each and every week, came on for the Kerr in the front row. Both boys played extremely well for the remainder of the game and gave their all.
It was almost the same again within 2 mins when Love again fielded the restart. This time he went left and with that typical strong running, he made it to the Foyle 22 where a great tackle ended his flight and the ball went out for a Foyle lineout. Monaghan who had been having a good solid game, managed to get his spade like hands on the ball, quickly turning defence into attack. From the set up, Hamill who had had another solid and effective performance, sniped blind to make 5 meters. Wth the support there, there was a quick recycle, again going blind and the tank that is Monaghan grabbed his opportunity. Pumping those legs, with the help from his fellow ‘battering rams’, he powered his way over the line for another well taken try.
At 29-0 the game now was all about maintaining a clean sheet, controlling the flow and playing direct effective rugby.
Foyle, however, were not giving up and through their very talented and strong number 12, they continued to make the ERGS boys think and react. Foyle pressed hard at every opportunity but with the game being played in their own half against a well organised and committed ERGS defence, the task was always going to be hard.
With captain Bothwell busy in the middle of the park marshalling his opposite number and with his co-accused Courtney at outside centre ably assisting the rush defence, the pressure placed on the Foyle back-line was always going to yield mistakes. With Foyle trying hard to run the ball from their half, the pressure eventually told with a loose pass which Bothwell intercepted. With work to do he pinned his ears back, jinked one defender and exploited the space open to him, to score under the posts. A great captains try born out of a defensive situation. Hamill added another 2 points.
Not long after ERGS once again were quickly back on the front foot, with the penalty count against them, now pretty much removed as an obstacle the flow of the game was all navy and red. Hamill and Love were controlling things as the ERGS pack, led by Smyton continued to punch holes. With a nicely won ball, Hamill moved play left where both Love and Monaghan, who had decided he was a back, were creating all sorts of problems for Foyle. After another charging run by the athletic and surprisingly agile ‘tank’, Courtney, who had another good game made himself available at the right time in support. With most of the defence taken up looking after Monaghan, Courtney received the ball to cross the line and add another 5 points.
At this stage of the game it was a credit to Foyle, to see them break from midfield not long after the restart. With their speedy player hurtling down the pitch it looked an almost certain try and the loss of the much coveted ‘clean sheet’. However, steaming across from his wing came Carrothers and like a panther eyeing his prey, he made a fantastic last gasp tackle on the Foyle player to save the day. Not only was this a brilliant, determined and brave tackle and one which most players at this level would have stopped to admire thinking their job was done, it was what followed that really made the moment special. Carrothers then showed why he is such a brilliant competitor. Not just content with the tackle, Carrothers got back on his feet like a flash, snapped the ball from the Foyle player in the flash of an eye and took off. So determined was he that he made it all the way back into the Foyle half, and but for another excellent covering tackle from Foyle, would have scored his 4th try.
From this rapid turn of defence into attack, Foyle were somewhat shell shocked and it was the pack leader and man of steel, Smyton that managed to break free to add the final score under the posts. Hamill added the kick, bringing the final score to 48-0.
This was a classic game of 2 halves where the main difference was simply the penalty count. 10 to 3 between the 2 x 25mins. I think that tells a huge tale and all the coaching team hope that this at last will be a lesson learned for the boys.
It was a great second half performance by each and every boy, they showed some maturity, game craft and ultimately the will and passion to win the game with hard work and determination. Its always difficult to pick out individual players in what was a great squad performance, however I know the boys wont mind one mention. No one man represented the ethos of this squad today during the second half, than Seaman in the back row. Quiet in the first half and usually quiet last week, he made up for that silence with a simply thundering 25 mins where he ran himself ragged tackling with venom anything that moved. He showed true heart, soul and pride in his ERGS jersey and must be commended for his performance of the season so far.
We would also like to thank the ladies for the coffee, cake and hot chocolate, as well as Gerry ‘Spielberg’ Burns for his camera work. Matthew had done his make-up specially for the camera!!
So onwards we roll to our final home game of this term against Wallace next week. All support welcome.