After the highs of last week the ERGS squad had the long journey to Newtownards to take on Regent Grammar in their second fixture of the season.
Having worked hard during the week on the key areas of the scrum, lineout, discipline and decision making in the back line the boys were quietly confident that under the leadership of the ever improving Bothwell they could come away with a solid win.
Last years fixture was quite a tempestuous affair both on and off the pitch for various reasons. So on what was a perfect morning for rugby the team took to the pitch to receive the kickoff knowing that discipline and control were going to be vitally important.
The high kick off was unfortunately mishandled by ERGS leading to the first scrum of the game. With the ERGS pack set against a bigger and heavier Regent opposition it was a pleasant surprise to see the more organised ERGS pack blow their opponents off the ball, setting the tone for this element of the set piece during the entire game. Being so dominant in the scrum required the ERGS pack to be very disciplined in order to avoid the wrath and free blowing whistle of the home referee. Something that became an unfortunate feature of the game that the ERGS boys dealt with in a mature and focused manner.
It was after a series of dominant scrums that ERGS were penalised for being just too aggressive. The subsequent penalty took place on halfway when the Regent kicker failed to make touch and rattled the ball down the throat of the eager Burns at 15. Burns taking the ball forward with confidence was halted almost in the centre of the pitch. Great support from his pack allowed Hamill to deliver a quick pass to his captain Bothwell from the ruck,who took the ball a further 15m into the Regent half. It was Graham, who like all good openside flankers was first there in support. He latched on like a crab and allowed Hamill to deliver a flowing pass to his partner in crime Love at 10. With pace and precision Love drew his opposite man and spun the ball wide to the ‘machine gun kid’ Carrothers who needed no encouragement to power his way past the defence to score out wide. A try of power, pace and quick thinking. The kick was narrowly missed.
The restart was collected by Aiken who had another solid and impressive performance in the engine room of the pack. Setting up great ball ERGS took the ball forward and several phases later ERGS were rewarded a scrum right in the centre of the pitch. The pack delivered another powerful scrum, Love called the move and with determination took the zipping pass from Hamill at pace. With care and with a clear mind Love again drew the defence and that man again, Carrothers was released and the inevitable happened as he rounded his opposite number to score again out wide. Lovely jubbly!!
The kick was short.
Finding themselves 10-0 the ERGS boys settled into what was a very dominant remainder of the first half. They played with a clear strategy, made sensible decisions and refused to be distracted by the copious penalties and decisions going against them. The pack were playing an aggressive and well organised game led by Smyton. The front row of Clarke, Kerr and Hetherington were totally dominant, the engine room of Aiken and ‘the Irish tank’, Monaghan were ferocious in defence and the back row of Smyton, Graham and Seaman didn’t miss a tackle as they terrorised their way through the half.
The half backs, Hamill and Love were in their element controlling the pace and flow of the game leaving Bothwell and Courtney hungry for ball in the centre of the park.
From yet another penalty to Regent, they again failed to make touch. With the ball fielded by Harte, who a few minutes before had been stopped just short of the line, he again made ground up the right flank. Following 3 phases of quick ball and excellent retention, the ball was released to the backs who with slick and accurate passing delivered the ball to Courtney at 13. Growing in confidence after a great performance last week, Courtney then pulled off a training ground move when he beautifully stepped off his left foot into space just inside the opposition 22. With work still to do he pinned his ears back and jinked and powered his way to a wonderful score under the posts. Hamill added the points.
Almost immediately from the restart ERGS battered and powered their way straight back to inside the Regent 22. After Bothwell setting up in midfield the ball was worked to the blindside 3 times in quick succession. With the ruck 5m out Hamill spotted his chance and duked low. With vital support from the eager and hard hitting Seaman and his back row colleagues, Hamill’s momentum was maintained and he managed to squirm his way in for a further 5 points. A well deserved try for Hamill who had worked tirelessly and was delivering a strong performance. The kick was short.
All in all a good solid and controlled first half for the ERGS boys who had scored a well earned 22 points.
The second half started with more of the same. The next score of the game was a direct result of all the hard work in training where the boys have concentrated on an aggressive and fast defensive line. From a Regent lineout the ball was spun to the Regent centres who had been under immense pressure from Bothwell and Courtney during the game. This pressure resulted in a dropped ball which Bothwell was on to like a limpet. Quickly recycled the ball was taken by the impressive Graham who with flowing locks roared up the left side. The bellowing Seaman was in support and as Graham was eventually halted he delivered a sweet one handed pass to the onrushing Seaman who was not going to be stopped as he smashed his way over in the corner. Well done the back row boys!! The kick was again short.
On came Magee and Elliott as the solid Burns and deadly Carrothers took a breather.
The next few minutes ebbed and flowed somewhat as Regent started to gather some ball and run some phases. The ERGS boys who were still not getting any breaks from the referee, to their credit knuckled down and stuck to their plan. The defence was brilliant with every player taking responsibility and showing commitment. Elliott out wide put in 2 good tackles to halt a Regent side who were growing in confidence, however it was clear that Bothwell’s men were not going to let their line be crossed.
After swallowing the pressure the ball was spun nicely to Harte on the right wing. Taking on his opposite number he let out the clutch and powered his way down the wing. As he looked sure to score he was scythed down by a dangerous and illegal high tackle which coach Clarke seemed to get the blame for without even moving his lips…… strange.
Anyway, ERGS at last had a penalty. Smyton stood forward and made ground, Hamill flicked to Bothwell who again was subject to a high tackle, however the referee played on and the pocket rocket Clarke took full advantage. At roughly about 3 inches of the ground he pumped the legs and was stopped just short of going under the posts. Hamill was there in the flash of a lambs tail, spinning the ball to the irrepressible Love who delivered another sweet pass to Courtney who sauntered over for his second score of the game. The kick was just wide.
As the game entered its last few minutes Magee as a result of a very brave tackle in midfield suffered a neck injury. Thanks to the care of the onsite medic he was suitably cared for and thankfully managed to walk off. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Burns came back on and Taggart got his opportunity to ditch his sideline responsibility, taking up his stall on the wing for Harte.
Nelson came on for Seaman who had worked himself ragged and Duncan came on for the cool and calm Kerr in the front row.
As the ERGS boys settled into the changes they maintained their dominance in the loose and through the middle of the park which was pleasing to see.
The final score came from more upfront dominance and quick ball. After a ruck inside the Regent 22, Hamill spotted the formidable presence of Monaghan hiding outside Love looking like he wanted a go. So with a great pass Hamill landed the ball into Monaghan’s large hands and set the ‘Irish Tank’ on a marauding run where he showed his strength and athleticism to beat through a tired Regent defence for a great individual try out wide on the left. The kick was again slipped wide.
The final whistle blew and a tired but very pleased ERGS side gathered on halfway to celebrate a good win, 37-0.
It was another lovely squad performance from this bunch of committed lads who are steadily improving in skill and character.
Well done to one and all