Enniskillen Royal Grammar School – 31 Down High School – 3
Royal School Dungannon was the venue for the 2017 Medallion Bowl Final in which Enniskillen Royal played Down High School. The pitch was pristine and much credit is due to the hard working ground’s staff. With the weather staying generally dry, the scene was set and a chance for ERGS to win their first rugby silverware and create a little piece of history.
Within minutes of the game starting it was Enniskillen who struck first. Prop forward Crawford charged down a clearance kick, gathered the ball and sprinted 30 metres only to be hauled down close to the opposition’s line. From the resulting ruck Smyton spotted a gap on the blind side and touched down, opening the scoring.
After this early upset Down started to dominate territorially with their centres and their full back looking particularly dangerous. It was only good defence particularly from Keys, Rutledge and White that abated a Down score. Against the run of play, Mills made a telling break and following good work from Morton, the hard working Smyton was on hand to score his second try. With the conversion successful the scoreboard read ERGS 12 Down High 0.
Again the Downpatrick based side made their way into the Enniskillen half but yet again they could not penetrate the excellent Enniskillen defence. However, they did manage to put points on the board from a well taken drop goal and reduce the deficit. As the half drew to a close a Down indiscretion gave ERGS a penalty which they kicked to the corner and with set piece overall functioning superbly it proved to be the right decision, Hooker Thompson’s accurate throw hit Carnduff and the Enniskillen juggernaut rumbled towards the Down line. When it was eventually stopped, Bothwell, who’s intelligent play has been apparent to this resurging side, fed Mills who made his way over the line to score and with the conversion goaled, the half time whistle sounded and ERGS led 19 points to 3.
The second half started and again Down High camped in the Enniskillen half for long periods. However the hours of work spent in the training paddock was paying off; the defensive line was simply impetrative. Down tried to attack wide but again Totten and Foster put their bodies on the line, time and time again. When they employed a kicking strategy, Malone was on hand to field and use his pace to run causing Down all sorts of problems. Eventually it looked as if Down were going to get a score as their fullback was heading to score in the left hand corner but an exceptional double tackle from Gauley and Fraser left the Down team in a state of bewilderment!
With 22 minutes left on the clock ERGS eventually got their hands on the ball. A break by flyhalf Foster fed Morton who made his way into the Down half. From the resulting ruck, the ball was moved wide to Mills who fed it to Gauley who then powered his way to the opposition’s line to make the score 24-3. Coaches Keys and Kennedy then emptied their bench; on came Rooney, Johnston, Elliott, Dolan, Balfour, Honeyman and Stinson. As the game reached its conclusion Morton intercepted a loose Down pass and made the 70 metre dash to score. The conversion was successful to leave the score 31-3. The final whistle sounded and the celebrations began. Mr Clingan thanked the officials, supporters and players before he presented the victorious team with the Medallion Bowl.
This was a victory built on a massive defensive effort and being totally clinical in attack, Down High had much more territory and possession than Enniskillen Royal which makes the score line all the more remarkable. Much credit is due to the coaches Josh Kennedy and Connor Keys who took over the coaching reigns at the beginning of November and instilled an inner belief in these young players. The regime they put in place was tough – two early morning gym sessions, three after school pitch sessions and a game on a Saturday. But each and every player bought into it and the net result was a fit team who played with confidence, character, self-belief and who ultimately gained well deserved success. The Medallion Bowl will take pride of place in the School but it’s the memories that these outstanding young men will cherish, that will surely last a lifetime.