Warmest congratulations to the 1st XV for a strong, focused, disciplined and determined display against Campbell College on Saturday. The score line did not go their way but this young team showed lion hearts, clear heads, impressive resilience and above all much maturity and dignity as they gave the current Schools’ Cup Holders a testing game. These young men are a team to watch and we are very proud of what they have achieved already.
Thank you too to everyone who travelled to support them: there was a great turnout and well done to you too for your loud, enthusiastic but always dignified support. All in all it was a great day for our school and there will be more!
See below for a full match report.
Campbell College vs Enniskillen Royal 1stXV
Danske Bank Schools Cup Quarter-Final
23 February 2019
Enniskillen Royal’s excellent season came to an end at Campbell College, Belfast at the weekend when they lost their Cup quarter-final by 38 points to 22.
“A good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”, so goes the old boxing adage and in these days of increased physicality in the game it also has a resonance in rugby. That was not, of course, the whole story. ERGS have beaten bigger sides this season, but it was certainly a contributing factor. The inexperience of youth was another.
Campbell, a school with almost three times the number of players to select from, always put on a show at these late stages of the Schools Cup, perhaps the biggest event, along with the MacRory Cup, in school sport. Saturday was no exception, banners, bands and flags surrounded the pitch in the idyllic parkland that is Campbell College. However, the crowd were not all supporters of the Belfast team. A considerable crowd had come from Enniskillen Royal itself, enthusiastically led by Head Teacher, Ms. Armstrong, but their numbers were more than doubled by past pupils and staff of both Portora and the Collegiate along with parents and friends. It made for an intimidating atmosphere for the young Enniskillen side and the opening plays showed that their nerves were far from settled. Campbell, on the other hand had a much older, heavier and more experienced side. They put pressure on ERGS from the outset, forcing them onto the back foot and coercing mistakes. Despite this it was ERGS who made the first break when captain, Alex Parke, picked a pass from out-half, Eddie Keys, off his boot laces and skipped around two players to head for the Campbell try line. Sadly, the referee decided that there was a possible serious injury to the tough ERGS prop, Andrew Dane, and he called the play back. ERGS misfortune was compounded minutes later when the Campbell No.8 picked from the back of a ruck and caught the Enniskillen players off-guard to sprint 20m to score beside the posts. For a team that has an exemplary defensive record this season to make such a simple error must have hurt. The Campbell out-half converted to give the home side an early 7 point lead.
Undeterred by this, ERGS kept possession for the next few minutes and worked their way down inside the Campbell 22m line where they were awarded a penalty. Keys coolly popped the ball over to make it 7 points to 3. This should have calmed Enniskillen’s nerves but a handling error on their own lineout led to a clearance kick being charged down and to Campbell being gifted a second soft try which they converted for a 14 – 3 lead.
ERGS had a good chance to strike back from a well fielded Campbell kick, but they uncharacteristically squandered a simple three on one and the opportunity was missed. Campbell were much more clinical and when, shortly afterwards, they played 10 phases of heavy weight forward drives they created an almost inevitable gap in the ERGS defence which they exploited to the full and extended their lead to 21-3. ERGS received a double whammy when one of the team’s great characters and a real strike force on the wing, Stuart Brown, was injured defending the try.
Enniskillen have earned their Ulster Schools 5th place ranking on the back of many hard-fought victories and for the next 5 minutes they demonstrated the type of play that has put them there. Mixing forward pods and back carries they played their way up to the Campbell line where Parke and winger, Curtis Coalter, were stopped 5 metres short. ERGS had two very strong attributes on the day, a very secure line out and a tight, effective driving maul. At this point they used both to bring play up to the Campbell try line where the explosive Callum Smyton crossed the line without a hand being laid on him. The conversion failed by a foot but as the half came to an end the visitors had their first score and the deficit reduced to 21-8.
It was clear that the next score was crucial, and it was Campbell, with more powerful forward carries, that secured it. When they repeated the outcome a few minutes later, in spite of some ferocious ERGS defence, Campbell went into a healthy 31-8 and for the first time this year a heavy defeat looked likely for the young ERGS side. They may have lacked size and experience, but the final quarter of the game showed that they did not lack guts.
Both sides brought on a number of their replacements, but it was the visitors who stepped up a gear and forced Campbell back onto their line where they just managed a scrambled defence to save a try. ERGS were continuing to press hard for that score when they were dealt another blow. A loose ball landed in the hands of a Campbell player on the wing, he kicked a relieving punt down the touch line and had the good sense to follow it up as the ball bounced kindly into his hands at the other end of the field and Campbell added another soft try and subsequent conversion to their tally. A score of 38-8 against should have sent the ERGS players looking for the bus home, instead they went looking for credibility and respectability and found a good deal of both.
Everyone loves a fighter and as ERGS threw all they had left at Campbell there was warm support from both sections of the crowd for their determination. Enniskillen pods started to make more yards and kicks began to find their target. They soon found themselves back on Campbell’s line and another clean line-out put the ball in the hands of Taine Haire who had moved from full-back to scrum-half. He timed his pass beautifully and the irrepressible Callum Smyton burst through for Enniskillen’s second try. Keys took a quick drop-kicked conversion to put the score at 38-15. It was ERGS that now looked the more dangerous side and when they put the last of their replacements on the field, those fresh legs added to the visitor’s impetus. They forced four consecutive penalties from the tiring Campbell defence and from another 5m line-out Haire and Smyton repeated their successful formula as did Keys with his drop-kicked conversion. It brought a final score of 38-22, a hat-trick of tries for the super-talented, 16 year-old Smyton and a great deal of credibility and respectability to a valiant young Enniskillen Royal team.
ERGS Try scorers:- Callum Smyton (3)
ERGS conversions:- Eddie Keys (2)
ERGS penalty:- Eddie Keys