Schools Cup Round 3
21 January 2017
It is hard to imagine a more pleasant January day for playing rugby, crisp, with blue skies, no wind and a warm welcome from the hosts, Dromore High School.
Dromore, in their first season in the Schools Cup, started the match as underdogs but quickly dispelled any notion of an easy match for the visitors when they opened the scoring within the first two minutes. From the first phase of play their out half, Reuben Cobb, sent an accurate kick deep into the Enniskillen half. ERGS winger, Josh Kennedy, sought to offer his full back some protection while retrieving the kick but was adjudged to have blocked an attacker by referee, Robbie Green. The subsequent penalty gave Dromore a line out on the Enniskillen 5 metre line where hooker, James Moore took a ball from the front of the line to dive over in the corner. Full back and Dromore Captain, Ben Martin, kicked an excellent conversion to put the home side into the lead 7-0.
Despite this early upset the visitors soon settled into a steady pattern of forward carries mixed with occasional back moves and some accurate positional kicking from scrum half, Matthew Dane and out half, Reece Smyton. Enniskillen put considerable pressure on their opposition when Dromore had the ball and from one ensuing mistake ERGS captain, Andrew “Tufty” Crawford, made what was to be one of many breaks to take the ball to within a metre of the Dromore goal line. Hooker, William Dowson, picked up from the back of the ruck to dive over for Enniskillen’s first score. Shortly after this Dromore’s talented number 8, Ben Heath, stopped a charging Jack Moore from scoring under the posts but in doing so lifted his hips above his shoulders to give away a penalty. Smyton converted to put the visitors in the lead, 7-8.
For the remainder of the first half the feisty home side attacked the Enniskillen line using both backs and forwards, moving the ball from wing to wing, but, significantly, without scoring a single point. Enniskillen’s defence in the centre field and around the rucks was resolute. Centres Angus Kee and Alex Parke were quickly off their line and accurate with their tackles while Jack Wilson, Jack Rutledge and, in particular Morgan Bruce, hounded the opposition ball carriers.
This, it turned out, was to be a critical part of the game. Dromore appeared to have been wearied by their failure to score while Enniskillen took the confidence they gained into the second half and rarely looked back.
The roles were now reversed and it was Enniskillen’s turn to mount consistent attacks which they did through the strong running of Moore, Rutledge and Reece Barrett. Any attempt at relieving kicks were very competently dealt with by the back three of Ewan Hare, Dylan Crawford and Josh Kennedy who returned to the attack with every ball they caught. Despite some poor handling by Enniskillen they succeeded in making the crucial try when Barrett broke through the Dromore defence once again to form a ruck a metre short of the try line where prop, Andrew Dane, copied his Year 12 team mate by picking from the back to dive over for a try. Smyton converted to bring the score to 7-15.
Despite this period of domination by the visitors the gallant Dromore side fought back through Heath and his forward pack. However, once again, Enniskillen’s defence held strong and pressure was relieved when Andrew Crawford stripped the ball in a ruck for an excellent turnover. Dromore’s failure to score led to frustration which was compounded when they lost a player to a yellow card for a foul tackle shortly afterwards. Smyton added 3 points from the penalty to put a little space between the scores at 7-18.
In the last period of play Rutledge got his just reward for an excellent game when he drove through the Dromore defence for the final try of the game which Smyton converted.
A 7-25 win was an excellent away result for Enniskillen against a well drilled Dromore side. However, they will need to address the inaccurate passing that took the speed out of both back moves and forward pods if they are to prevail against Armagh in the next round of the Schools Cup.
In the meantime, congratulations must go to Enniskillen captain, Andrew Crawford, who led by example in both defence and attack. It was a real “captain’s game”.