The Enniskillen Royal GS Under 14 squad secured a fine win as they claimed the O’Kane’s U14 Rugby tournament at Ballymena Academy by defeating the host school in the final.

In perfect conditions ERGS opened the group stage with a 19-5 win over Ballyclare. Justin White, Sam Milligan and Taine Haire scored the tries, with Eddie Keys converting two of them.

The first half saw some scintillating running and passing, with the training-ground work really paying off.

They then defeated Dalriada 29-0, Sam Balfour scoring a hat-trick on the left wing and Adam Sanderson picking up one off his toes on the right from a deft chip through by Keys. Hugo Graham and Patton linked well and put Donaldson into space down the left touch line on several occasions. White, who was excellent all day, crossed the line again. Keys and Mattie Bothwell each scored a conversion to complete the scoring.

There was a steady flow of possession from scrums and lineouts, with Phair throwing very accurately and leading the front row combinations from Hutchinson, Davis, White and Matt Graham (who played despite a broken toe).

Next up was a quarter-final against Royal School Armagh and the matches extended from 15 to 20 minutes long.

The ERGS defence stepped up a gear and fierce tackling and rucking by the back row of Stinson, Smyton, Henry Keys and Johny Elliott consistently turned ball over.

Beatty, Wilson and Havers were rotating in the second row and all made telling runs with ball in hand. Half backs Mattie Bothwell and Eddie Keys were taking good options and in the dry conditions the passes were ‘sticking’, leading to some great rugby for the travelling support.

Sam Milligan cut clever angles into line from full-back, making clean breaks. Sam Balfour got a brace of tries out wide and White scored again, as did Captain Smyton, Eddie Keys and Taine Haire, with a great step. Bothwell and Keys added two conversions each to complete a 40-0 win.

The semi-final against Coleraine was a very tough game and the Enniskillen defence really stepped up to the mark. Stephen Balfour, always a threat in attack, really impressed with his tackling in this game. Jason Bothwell’s defence also deserves a mention, as he snuffed out repeated attacks down his wing by reading the play well and timing his tackles perfectly. White scored at the end of the first period, which had been spent almost entirely in the Enniskillen half.

The lead was stretched in the second half with a try by Smyton, converted by Bothwell and then another try by the mercurial Haire.

Coleraine scored with a few minutes to go but ERGS closed the game out with a penalty by Keys to win 20-7.

Ballymena Academy had beaten Wallace HS convincingly in the other semi-final to set up the final meeting. Again, whilst the skills in attack were tremendous, it was the boys’ grit and determination in defence that won the game.

The Ballymena pack was much bigger man for man but that counted for little and belies the apparent obsession in many quarters with weight and size over skill and speed. Henry Keys was consistently winning ball at the breakdown and Beatty had a great day, making some super tackles and carries. He was rewarded with the opening try in the final. The result was secured late in the second half when the ever-present Smyton scored and Keys converted.

Having lost the final of the RBAI tournament to Campbell a couple of weeks ago the boys were determined to not let this one slip. Some of their play in attack was brilliant to watch and displayed a wide variety of skills and game awareness. Their defence was no less impressive, conceding only two tries in the five games and scoring 17. Though their ‘feet should remain firmly planted on the ground’, this win will give them confidence heading into their Medallion season next September. There is a lot of talent in the squad but they know how to work hard too and that’s a good combination.

Squad: M. Graham. R.Phair. H.Hutchinson. J.White. B.Davis. Z.Havers. M.Wilson. M.Beatty. D.Stinson. H.Keys.J.Elliott. C.Smyton (C) M.Bothwell. H.Graham. E.Keys. Stephen Balfour. T.Haire. A.Patton. C.Donaldson. J.Bothwell. A.Sanderson. Sam. Balfour. S.Milligan.