As a last hooray for the 2018/19 season a full and eager squad of 19 boys boarded the early morning coach to head to Dublin for a 2 day, 2 game mini tour against the stronghold of Terenure College and De La Salle club. The much awaited game against Terenure college had been eagerly anticipated since the fixture was pencilled in, in January and it was on a beautiful bright and dry morning that the boys unloaded at what is an iconic venue in the history of Leinster schools rugby.
With the ERGS lads having had a blaster of a season and having regained their mojo over the past few weeks there was a quiet confidence that they could compete at the highest level of rugby at their age group in Ireland. The Terenure side had also had a super season with some major scalps along the way and so both sides took to the pitch in confident mood.
In terms of line up, Clarke was welcomed back from a long spell off into hooker and he packed down with Hetherington and Duncan alongside him. The engine room of Holmes and Aiken remained unchanged as did the backrow of pack leader Smyton, Graham and Seaman. Hamill and Love made up the hinge with captain Bothwell partnering Courtney in the middle of the park. Harte, Carrothers and Burns made up the back 3 with Elliott, Nelson and Monaghan on the sidelines.
Terenure kicked off in front of their large home support and when the ball eventually came down (I’m pretty sure I spotted some snow on it) ERGS failed to field and knocked on. Not a great start and immediately giving a home side like Terenure the Initial momentum and field position put ERGS on the back foot. For the next 5 minutes Terenure pounded at ERGS. The physicality was a huge step up from anything the boys had faced before however the visitors were up to the task and they defended with power and heart during what was an intensive introduction to Dublin schools rugby. Terenure, as expected were well drilled, powerful and had high levels of basic skills. With a clearly potent backline controlled by their talented 10 it was becoming rapidly clear to all that this was going to be a tough tough morning. Eventually the pressure exerted by ERGS in defence forced the mistake and the onslaught ended with the home side somewhat surprised they had not come away with points. Their second surprise was when at the the first scrum of the game the realised the ERGS pack would not be pushed back or indeed take a step back in any way shape or form. Hetherington, who would go on to have a simply outstanding game laid his marker down immediately. His pockets just weren’t big enough to hold his opposite number as he totally dominated not only in the set piece but in the loose. He simply led the way upfront and his spirited, passionate and brutal approach to the game inspired all those around him.
The first score of the game came from the breakdown inside ERGS’s 22. After absorbing more pressure ERGS turned the ball over. Hamill was on the ball in a flash behind his rucking pack and with Love calling blind ERGS we’re away. Love broke the first line of defence and fed beautifully to the on rushing Seaman who took the play to beyond halfway. With Terenure totally caught on the hop Seaman showed incredible composure under a heavy tackle by the wonderful Terenure 15 who’s defence all game was incredible, to offload to Graham In support who sprinted the remaining 35m to score under the posts. Love added the kick and the ERGS boys found themselves 7-0 up after scoring a wonderful try which came purely through determined defence.
Almost immediately from the retreat ERGS once again demonstrated their ability to play fantastic rugby when on the front foot. With Terenure rattled, the visitors pressed hard and started to put some phases together. Hetherington, Smyton and Holmes were making the yards and the offloading game was working very well. Hamill was getting good ball to maintain momentum and the work the whole squad had been putting in over the past few weeks was now being produced on the pitch and it was a pleasure to watch. Further scrums we’re allowing ERGS to punch above their weight as Hetherington continued to cause mayhem for both the opposition and the referee. The rucking game was intense and accurate and soon ERGS broke free with Smyton starting to get his dancing shoes on. He made a break and again through Seaman, Aiken and Love ERGS got in behind Terenure. Hamill sniping at the heels of his pack released the backline and with a preplanned move the ball was swept across the pitch to Carrothers who evaded his opposite number. When looking certain to score the home side 15 once again popped up and forced Carrothers back inside. As he went to ground he managed to feed Love who fought his way over the line for another breathtaking try. The kick was missed leaving the score 12-0.
Terenure had a few strong words with themselves and had clearly underestimated the ERGS boys, however it was clear that the home side had another gear and they were about to show just why they have been a real force this year.
From the restart the pressure was again applied and the game took on all the appearance of a battle field. With Terenure throwing the kitchen sink at ERGS it was inspiring to watch just how ERGS soaked it up. They matched tackle with tackle, hit for hit, yard for yard. Every single boy refused to lie down and for the next 10 minutes the game went to and fro. Both sides were fully committed to the task in hand. With Terenure unable to break the ERGS defence their clever 10 realised where the space was and with a deft chip he turned the ERGS backline who for the first time were caught short. The Terenure inside centre was the first to the kick and managed to control the ball over the line with his foot for a touchdown. The points were added leaving the score 12-7.
Quite soon from the restart ERGS once again were under the cosh. Terenure were showing just what they could do with ball in hand and clearly wanted to take advantage of their talented backline. Captain Bothwell, Courtney, Carrothers, Burns and Harte were all working hard to keep the wave after wave of attack at bay however, eventually a gap appeared and Terenure pounced like a cat to release their winger who scored a very well taken try. Conversion was hit and the lead had turned 14-12 to the home side.
With Terenure on fire many sides would have crumbled but for the remainder of the half it was ERGS who decided that they were not going to role over. With the Terenure set piece falling apart unable to cope with Hetherington in beast mode the scrums went uncontested for the last 8 minutes of what was a 33 minute half. Although this had the result of removing a dominance ERGS we’re enjoying it didn’t dampen their will to Ruck the living daylights out of the home side. With the pendulum again swinging back to ERGS they got back into some running rugby and it was Terenures turn to defend. Hamill was supplying Love with good ball as his pack moved again into the ascendancy and both Carrothers and Harte were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. Halftime was a welcome sight after what was a pulsating 33 minutes of the high level rugby.
ERGS restarted and although they found themselves in a good territorial position it was a great relieving kick from Terenure that brought play into the ERGS 22. Here the game was played for another intense 10 minutes as the home side dominated possession once again pummelling the ERGS defence. However, once again ERGS were upto the task and they repelled wave after wave of Terenure runners. Eventually the visitors turned the ball over and secured the ball. With the opportunity to clear the danger Love decided to run the ball. Passing to Bothwell the rushing Terenure defence wrapped him up and almost immediately they were back in attack. With more and more pressure mounting it looked inevitable that they would score, however, digging deeper than they have ever had to do before ERGS thwarted a rampant and now frustrated Terenure side. Eventually play broke down and this time Love cleared his lines and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief and suck in some much needed oxygen. One aspect that has led to this teams success on the road has been their fitness. Definitely one of the fittest at their age group this has stood to them well over the season and this game was going to test that to the max.
The pendulum was now about to swing once again in this pulsating game. ERGS having released themselves from their 22 now took the game to Terenure. Gaining some control they had a chance to run through their phases. Monaghan, Elliott and Nelson were a welcome set of fresh legs and straightway all players made an impact. Elliott secure at the back, Monaghan making ground with some powerful running which resembled a young bullock and Nelson who just out his body on the line In contact time after time.
Making use of Carrothers and Harte on the wing through efficient distribution of the ball ERGS once again looked very dangerous. However, just some simple mistakes in the final quarter of the pitch meant that the hard work was being undone and Terenure were being let of the hook. It was from once such incidentals mistake by ERGS that Terenure showed their class by turning defence into attack. Snapping the ball away from a scrum as a result of an ERGS knock on, the home side put what were the last points to be scored on the board. Moving the ball wide and then kicking deep they turned ERGS around just like in the first half and after whizzing through a few phases their winger broke free to score a well taken opportunity at a time where ERGS were in the ascendancy.
With captain Bothwell having a few words the ERGS lads didn’t let the heads drop and to their credit they unleashed a last 12 minutes of outstanding rugby. With Terenure clearly tired and looking for 2 of their players who were in Hetherington’s rather full pocket ERGS once again raised to dominate the game. Attacking with some venom all players were contributing to a thrilling end to the game. Both Carrothers and Monaghan, when it looked certain they would score were scythed down by the impressive fullback. Other opportunities were wasted….Hamill was held up on the line, Love was held inches short, Harte was bundled into touch 2 meters out and Aiken knocked on under the posts as ERGS just failed to take advantage of their field position and domination in the loose and set piece. Credit to the Terenure defence, it was superb as they were really put under the cosh.
The game ended with ERGS camped in the Terenure 22 as a relieved home 10 popped the ball into touch.
Final score 19-12.
This game lived upto all expectations. It was a real clinker and the ERGS lads won the respect of not only their talented opposition but also of all the home supporters who warmly applauded a wonderful display of fearless, exciting and running rugby.
It was a real marker for the boys and one that they will learn and develop from. They produced their best performance of the year. They competed in every position and in every facet of the game. Each and everyone of them left nothing out on the pitch and they were shining ambassadors for themselves, the game of rugby and their school. They won friends and respect and they have now created a link between ERGS and one of the top rugby schools in Ireland. They will remember this game for a long time and once the pain of losing passes they will also benefit hugely from the conduit it provided for them to become a better team.
De La Salle RFC
After the battle Royale at Terenure on the Saturday a somewhat jaded and bruised squad boys got back on the bus for the 30 mins trip south of the city for their second game in 24hrs.
The game was to hold some significance as it was be the last time this bunch of lads would play together as U14’s. We were joined by Alex Howe up from the U13’s who has already shown his ability to play up a year.
Arrival at De La Salle club is further enhanced by the very pleasant view from the elevated carpark and clubhouse. Overlooking 3 well cared for pitches the clubhouse was a hive of Sunday morning activity as mini rugby was in full swing with the usual vocal parental support easily carried on the crisp air of another fine morning for a game. The ERGS team and coaches were warmly welcomed and had the honour of playing on the first XV pitch, right under the balcony and viewing gallery of the clubhouse.
Not having any real idea what they were to face the boys went through their warm-up routine to try to shake off yesterdays game and the rather light sleep they all seemed to have endured!!
With a few changes to the starting line-up, Monaghan in for Holmes, Nelson for Seaman and Elliott for Burns, captain Bothwell chose to kick the game off under the watchful eye of the rather friendly and pleasant referee. Placing the ball deep, Love’s kick was well chased and the home side were immediately under pressure. Unfortunately Courtney was a bit over eager in the tackle and caught his man a tad high resulting in De La Salle having the opportunity to kick clear.
Harte who has been improving with every game was well positioned on the wing to field the kick beautifully and he managed to bring play back into the De La Salle 22. From the ruck, Hamill fed Love who shot a lovely pass to the Karate Kid Smyton, who arrived with pace and on a great line to smash his way through 2 tacklers to score a very early and well worked try. Love added the points 7-0.
From the restart the man mountain that is Monaghan, fielded. Monaghan who has recently returned from injury has over the past 3 weeks started to find his groove again and show his power on the hoof, which is quite a sight. He took off and literally barrelled his way back up the pitch with the opposition players lying around him like skittles. He was eventually stopped inside the 22. A lovely quick ruck allowed for fast ball for Hamill who fed Smyton on the crash ball. Again he broke free, this time with Love in support who received the off load to score. The kick was missed. 12-0
The game then settled for a short period of time and during this the home side caught their breath and became more involved. We also had our first scrum and just like yesterday, ERGS were totally in command. The front row of Hetherington, Clarke and Duncan performed magnificently once again and caused all sorts of problems. With play back to within ERGS’s 22 another scrum was awarded to De La Salle. This was won against the head allowing Hamill to regain possession and release Love in full flight. He found his ever present captain who took play well up to half way. With the momentum once again in their favour the ball was swung out to Carrothers who again made ground. Well supported by Elliott and Courtney the ball was quickly recycled and Hamill fed 2 short runners, Hetherington and Duncan who smashed holes in a stretched De La Salle defence. Again quick ball saw Love break the line and off loading to the dancing feet of Smyton who crossed the line for his second score. Love added the extras. 19-0
From the restart ERGS knocked on giving the home side a scrum in their own 22. This one they won and cleared their lines with a kick up the middle of the park. This was taken by Courtney who made a great counter attacking run straight back up the pitch, evading several tacklers on his way. Nicely presented the ball was well secured by the supporting players allowing yet another fact ball for Hamill to whizz it out to Love. Love, who had another solid and impressive performance, drew the last 2 defenders and released Howe out wide who showed a clean pair of heels and scored a great try out wide. Well done Alex. The kick was just short. 24-0.
With the home side on the end of what was a very physical ERGS side heads started to drop a little, however, ERGS were not done yet. Straight from the restart, that man Carrothers fielded the kick and with a bedazzling display of power, speed and agility ran the ball straight back up the pitch to score a lovely individual try. Half time score: 29-0.
It’s fair to say at this point that so many floating subs had been used, I couldn’t keep track. However, everybody was contributing well. Elliott was having his best game in an ERGS jersey with several solid takes at 15 and confident counter running. The backrow, a mixture of Seaman, Graham, Nelson and Smyton were interchanging well and all were covering the ground effectively and letting nothing slip past in the tackle. The big men of Monaghan, Holmes, Aiken and Monaghan were enjoying some freedom to run and the front row were happily doing the grunt work with all 3 making some hard yards. Hetherington was again impressing in the loose and with his ability to cover ground… some engine in that lad. Hamill and Love, who have developed a strong and solid relationship throughout the season were in total control as were the centres of Bothwell and Courtney. The back 3 were interchanged with Burns, Elliott, Harte, Howe and Carrothers, all enjoying time with the ball in hand.
At the start of the second half the lads scored their best points of the game. Holmes gathered beautifully from the kick and powerfully made ground to set up clean ball. Hamill picked out Seaman who stepped beautifully into the wider channel, taking play another 15 yrds. Quick hands by Hamill seen the ball to Love in a flash and with the call made the ball was delivered beautifully by Burns to Carrothers. The machine gun kid hit the ball like a truck, rounded his opposite number and scored under the posts. A great, well worked try that was finished with some aplomb. Love added the conversion: 36-0.
The next score came after ERGS had made significant ground through Monaghan, Smyton and Duncan. These 3 lads were causing all sorts of problems on the smash ball however, after all this work the ball was lost on the ground. De La Salle managed to counter attack, however, Carrothers wrapped up his opposite number like a Christmas present allowing Seaman to come in and steal the ball effecting a turnover. Spotted quickly by Love, he took the ball at speed from Hamill and fed his captain Bothwell. Having released the ball to Courtney he spun it to Elliott who floated the most idyllic and accurate pass to Carrothers, who took the ball as speed to go in for his hat-trick. 41-0.
At this point the home side, who never gave up battled through and managed to get on the score board after a strong run. 41-5
From then on, it was pretty much all ERGS who ran in a further 3 scores. The first was from another spell of strong short balls where the ERGS forwards targeted the outside channels very effectively. Eventually the ball was released out the backs where Seaman popped up to take out the last defender, releasing Courtney who crossed for a well deserved try. 46-5
Sam the man Carrothers then got his 4th with another mesmerising ‘power run’ through the middle of the pitch to score under the posts. Love uncharacteristically missed the kick. 51-5
The final score was richly deserved by the ‘slight of hand’ expert Harte. With Carrothers again involved, ripping the ball in the tackle, ERGS were able to turn defence into attack. With the pattern, now well established, Hamill was able to easily supply his runner with good ball. They took advantage, punching the holes and creating the overlap. Love, the ring master, simply called the ball wide and with another delightful pass from Elliott, Harte was away. Round his opposite number and under the posts. The kick was missed. 56-5
Overall a comprehensive victory and a well controlled display of rugby to end the season where the entire squad available played their part and gave their all. It was a pleasure to see the confidence growing in all the boys and we can safely say that the mini-tour was a huge success. A wonderful way to end the season with this super bunch of boys. Richly deserved, they are a credit to their families, school and to the sport of rugby.
I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Fionn, who was unable to come through injury, a speedy recovery. Also to Harry who couldn’t make the trip… we missed you both.
From the coaches we would like to extend a huge thank-you to all the parents for their continued support throughout the season. A thank-you to our pitch side supporters with coffee, cake and hot chocolate. But mostly a thank you to each and every boy for their dedication, effort, humour and commitment throughout the season. If you read this………You guys are a total pleasure to coach, be very very proud of yourselves, you are all amazing!!