Continuing their series of home games, ERGS hosted their fellow Royal school, Dungannon, on a dismal wet morning at Castle Lane, hunting for another win.
With prep this week all based around discipline, the more technical aspects of the breakdown and the rules of the game there was an expectation of this progressive young side carrying what they had learnt into the game.
Special thanks must go to Jonny Gibson who gave of his time on Thursday of this week to give the lads a wonderful insight into the rules and regulations and to Michael Pickles for referring todays game. Its wonderful to be able to call on such experience and expertise from 2 local guys who so clearly love the game.
With captain Bothwell, who did such a good job today, wining the toss, ERGS kicked off with the same starting line up as last week apart from Burns out at 15 due to bruised ribs from last week. He was replaced by the ‘quiet man’ Magee, who stepped into fill this important role for the team.
With the conditions pretty miserable ERGS knew that handling would be difficult and that the front 5 were going to have a busy 50 mins. So right from the go, this was a physical and robust encounter for the ERGS boys. Securing the kick-off ERGS ran through a few quick phases and soon found themselves out left within the Dungannon 22. Hamill was getting good ball from his pack who were driving onto the ball as hard as the rain was falling and he was able to keep momentum with strong runs from Monaghan, Smyton and Clarke. With the pressure on, Dungannon encroached at the ruck and ERGS had a penalty in a great position. Hetherington, took the ball on powerfully well supported by the aggressive Aiken. With the ball secured once again, Hamill swung play back to the right after the call from Love who once in receipt of the ball, sidestepped the rapidly approaching Dungannon defence to jink and power his way over the line for the first score. The kick fell short. So with the first excursion into the opposition half ERGS had taken their early opportunity to get points on the board.
With tails up, the voice of Smyton was heard, rallying his troops for ‘more of the same’ and more he got. Straight from the kick off that man, ‘captain courageous’ Bothwell, who had almost lost his voice due to illness, gathered a rather wayward kick on the right of the pitch. Setting up beautifully with great back row support, the ball was clean and quickly into the hands of Love. Feeding Courtney in the middle of the park, ground was made and further excellent aggressive rucking allowed Hamill the time to release lovely 3rd phase ball. Love took the ball at speed and with a skip pass of some quality he fed the ‘machine gun kid’ Carrothers just inside the Dungannon half. With the jet propulsion fully engaged, Carrothers steamed down the left wing to beat the Dungannon defence and score under the posts. Hamill added the points.
At 12-0 within 5 mins the ERGS boys looked in total control. The handling was safe and accurate despite the conditions, the ball retention was good and the thinking was quick and sensible. However, in the blink of an eye, the game changed. ERGS for some reason ceased to communicate, they started to slip off tackles and reverted to giving away penalty after penalty for sloppy, indisciplined play. For the remainder of the half, it was pretty much all Dungannon, who had woken up and started to play some lovely rugby. We knew before the game that Dungannon had an exceptionally talented 10 and for the next 15 mins he showed his quality. With accurate kicking, running and decision making, coupled with territorial loss from ERGS indiscipline he rallied his men to push right into the ERGS 22. The ball retention by Dungannon at this stage was excellent, ERGS did defend well, it has to be said with some crunching tackles in midfield by Bothwell and Courtney, but the good bits were marred by repeated infringements for offside, hands in the ruck, not releasing and high tackles. With the referee being very clear on what he was willing to accept and with all the work this week on this part of the game, it was with some disappointment that the ERGS boys had not responded positively or learned their lessons. So quite rightly, they found themselves under immense pressure. With yet another penalty being awarded to Dungannon, they opted for the penalty kick. Well struck but falling wide, ERGS knocked on in the dead ball area, awarding Dungannon a 5m scrum. With a powerful shove, they secured the ball, picked up and scored. Their 10 added the extras. 12-7 and ERGS at this stage looked out of the game.
During this phase of play the Dungannon outside centre had to leave the pitch due to a facial wound. We wish him a speedy recovery.
From the restart, ERGS were at it again. Penalty after penalty allowed a Dungannon side who were growing in confidence, back into the ERGS 22. The game ebbed and flowed a little at this point with ERGS defending well and Dungannon working hard to try to exploit the number 10 channel. Good work by the ERGS back-line kept things at bay, however, Dungannon were awarded another penalty, which the impressive 10, slotted over leaving the half time score a close 12-10.
By this stage the rain had thankfully stopped, brollies were discarded and it was time for a quick ‘chat’ about how the ERGS boys were simply making hard work of things through their high penalty count.
Dungannon restarted the game with a well targeted kick to force a lineout on the ERGS 22. Winning the lineout, Dungannon started the half where they had left off, putting the ERGS boys under a lot of pressure with good recycling of the ball, nice handling and straight running. Again ERGS defended well, they reorganised themselves between phases well and at last the communication was starting to return. With some strong tackling and aggressive line speed, ERGS forced the Dungannon boys back up the pitch and started to look like they wanted to get back in command of the game. From a turnover ball at the 22, the switch flicked back in favour of the ERGS team. Hamill managed to smuggle the ball to Love who gave a nice pass to Bothwell. With his typical cool head he held and released Courtney, who spun the ball wide to Carrothers. Spotting the space out wide, Sam the man, floored the accelerator and took off. With the vocal home support urging him on, he beat his opposite man and 2 others with pure pace to tear up the touchline and score a ‘get out of jail free’ try. Hamill added the points.
From this point at 19-10 up and in control, ERGS should have buried the game. However, for the next 5 mins they reverted once again to giving away penalties and allowing the dangerous Dungannon 10, to get his side back into the game. With the pressure piling again, ERGS were penalised just outside their 22 for holding on. The Dungannon out half, stood up and slotted another 3 points with a fine kick leaving the score 19-13 and the game up for the taking for the side that wanted it the most.
Nelson came on for the hardworking Seaman in the back row at this stage.
Restarting again, ERGS managed to field the ball through Harte, who sensibly, when tackled gave a good platform for the ERGS pack to secure the ball. With better ball, Hamill fed a few short balls to his oncoming forwards. Winning some hard yards, ERGS were then awarded a scrum just outside their own 22. A decent push allowed Hamill to feed Love who set loose his back-line. With simple accurate passing the ball soon was in the hands of Magee who using his brain, held the final pass to take out the last defender, releasing Carrothers into some space. With space this young lad is simply devastating and with it feeling a bit like groundhog day, the pocket rocket, launched another powerful run at the flailing and tiring Dungannon defence to score his hat trick out wide on the left.
This was a try of some quality and one very much where timing was key.
Now at 24-13 with 10 minutes left, ERGS were looking the sharper and fitter of the 2 sides. To their credit Dungannon had worked themselves hard for the middle section of the game but the ERGS fitness and physicality were starting to take their toll on the opposition.
For the remainder of the game ERGS played some wonderful running controlled rugby, despite the conditions being against them. They improved the discipline, the penalty count almost stopped completely and they simply took control. With Smyton leading the charge up front, his men rallied and Kerr, Monaghan, Aiken and Hetherington all upped their work rate. This made a huge difference to the game and provided more accurate, consistent and better ball for Hamill and Love to at long last be able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
The next score demonstrated what this side can do when their heads are in the right frame of mind. After several phases of nice controlled and strong rugby where almost every player touched the ball. Smyton, who had a great game, picked and went. With some space he did his typical ballerina impression up the touchline, pirouetting, rolling and bouncing through tackles. Setting the ball up on half way with their tails up following Smytons run, Hamill spun a great pass to Love who took the ball at speed. With that forward momentum, Bothwell was able to make ground when he received the ball as too was Courtney, who jinked once and managed to hit Magee with a nice pass, coming at full pace. At this point the flow of the move was a joy to watch, however the pass from Magee off his left hand to accurately pick out Harte on the wing was the sweetest thing to be seen all game. The timing was sublime and Harte moving onto the ball at such pace caused a cry of joy from the supporters. The result was inevitable as Harte swerved powerfully off his inside foot, handed off his opposite number and rounded to score under the posts. It was a cracker of a try. Hamill added the points.
Elliott then came on for Harte on the wing.
The last few minutes of the game was all about ERGS as they dominated upfront, in the tackle and through direct strong running. Monaghan was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with one off his typical tank like charges, however that man Sam Carrothers was not done yet. By this stage ERGS knew that they could stretch the tired Dungannon defence and the last try was another simple but well executed exploitation of their game plan. From further good work by the pack up the middle of the pitch, the ball was once again released by Hamill to the onrushing Love. Pop, pop, pop and Carrothers was away again scything up the touchline to score another great, well taken and worked try under the posts. Hamill added 2, leaving the final score 38-13.
Make, no mistake this was the hardest battle this side has faced so far this season, they had to work very hard to keep on top. They did make it difficult for themselves and the learning from this game will be all about that word ‘discipline’. Its one of the most important aspects of the game and lack of it can easily lose a good side games. This is a good side, a good bunch of boys, growing and learning all the time but they need to remember to maintain control, if they do that and reduce their penalty count, learn from their mistakes, they have the ability to do well.
Overall a good win against a very hard working Dungannon team, who certainly came to play a good game of rugby. Ultimately, ERGS were the stronger and fitter side and they certainly deserved their win. The quality of some of their scores was a credit to the hard work they put in at training. In such horrible conditions to have all but one try scored by the wingers was a testament to how this side want to play the game. Hats off to them for being brave enough to run the ball from the start and hats off to them for knuckling down hard when it was required.
Next week we have the return fixture at home against Foyle. Lets hope the rain stays away and the support is just as vocal!!!!