For their 4th away game on the trot the ERGS U13’s took to a very muddy and rather undulating pitch against Foyle College. Carrying several enforced changes through injury, absence and illness several of the boys found themselves out of position against an opposition to whom they narrowly lost by 3 points at the start of the season. So a good game was anticipated.
Bothwell led his men onto the pitch knowing that Foyle’s superb no8 and no10 would happily cause damage all day if they were allowed the freedom to do so.
Folye kicked off and almost immediately it became clear that the prematch warnings were correct. After several rucks the Foyle no8 powered over to the right of the posts. The try was duly converted.
From the restart ERGS did manage to throw some phases together and actually started to play. Immediately they looked dangerous with some good rucking and ball distribution to both wings who made some great strong runs against what was a very well organised defence. The pitch was a mess and the slipping and sliding didn’t help as ERGS tried to open the game up. From good pressure in the Foyle 22, their no10 made a long kick downfield which ERGS did not field well and from the resultant ruck the no10 again raised his head and charged through several tackles to score a second try. He converted. Leaving the score at 14-0 with only 10 mins to go left things looking ominous for this talented ERGS team. However, as they have done in the past they dug in and pushed again. From that point on ERGS totally dominated the rest of the half with brilliant ball retention, rucking and clever play in the conditions. They collectively put in a shift and through that man Smyton, ably assisted by Clarke, Hetherington and Monaghan some ground was made. Hamill at scrum half was starting to control the game and with continued strong running from Love and Bothwell in the awful underfoot conditions the tide was turning. From some brilliant rucking phases the ‘beast’ Smyton crashed over the line but was unfortunately judged to be held up by what was a very good and fair referee. The half ended with the Foyle boys looking tired as they had just soaked 15 mins of pressure. Their defence has to be commended and to a man they missed nothing.
After a few words at half time it was ERGS who started the brightest. Continued brilliant rucking from Clarke, Nelson, Smyton and Courtney allowed Hamill to start having a go to release the powerful backs. Again Harte and Carrothers both played very well and showed again and again that they are talented and dangerous attackers with ball in hand. Unfortunately a slip in concentration allowed Foyle up the pitch and with their only foray into ERGS territory their impressive no 8 went over again for a converted try. 21-0 down in a match where they were often dominant seemed unfair. From the kick off it can only be said that ERGS then let loose. Fast hard rugby was the order of the day and they heaped more and more pressure on a tiring Foyle side. The pack really rucked well and the boys despite being down in score proudly kept their heads up. The towering Monaghan who was a thorn in the Foyle lineout all day took a pop ball in open play from Hamill and simply smashed his way from half way to score a well deserved try. Hamill added the points. Straightaway ERGS were back at it and some lovely handling from Hamil, Love, Burns and Elliott released the wriggling and jinking Carrothers who beat several tackles out wide to score what everyone, including the referee was a try. Unfortunately the linesman had called Carrothers in touch at the half way line and a somewhat baffled set of players returned for a lineout. Not to be disheartened ERGS again won an opposition lineout through Monaghan and after quick flash ball it was a delight to see captain Bothwell find space through the middle and beating several tackles he sneaked his way under the posts for a lovely captains try. Hamill slotted the extras. With only a few plays left the ERGS boys rallied again and with the fitness really showing through they hammered again and again at a resolute Foyle defence. Harte, Carrothers and Burns all had a go and with Love moving to inside centre he was starting to command the centre of the attack. Again Hamill was in the middle of it and swung a pass down the blind side to the ‘beast’ who again was deemed to be held up over the line. In the dying minutes Love slipped on the cut up surface when it looked sure he would score.
The game ended 21-14 to Foyle with everyman ‘bogged’ to the eyeballs and truly knackered. This game was a testament to the U13 squad. With so many changes it was very pleasing to see them pretty much dominate the game but for 3 times when concentration and probably confidence let them down. Their spirit and fitness to fight back was tremendous and they should all be very proud of how they did. The rucking and handling display in terrible conditions was excellent against a very good defensive side. Yes there were opportunities to win the game and arguably we should have, but that’s sport, it’s sometimes cruel and losing often creates a better opportunity to learn and improve.