|Enniskillen 1st XV (F)
||43 - 7
||Clogher 1st XV (F)
After a last minute cry off by the scheduled opposition CIYMS, Clogher Valley stepped in to provide an impromptu local derby friendly at Mullaghmeen on Saturday past.
With both sides facing into arduous league campaigns commencing next weekend this game proved to be a useful run out for both teams.
Owing to this being a hastily arranged fixture, several players were not available due to work commitments several forced changes had to be made to the starting line-ups which resulted in many players getting a last opportunity to impress their respective coaches.
The game was played in near perfect conditions with a slight wind favouring the home side during the opening period. Clogher, having won the toss, opted to kick-off to the visitors. From the start both sides displayed an immediate desire to control possession and to dominate proceedings. During the opening ten minutes Skins had the upper hand at scrum time and Clogher dominated the line-outs with David Sharkey constantly securing possession with clean catches. The home side defence was resolute from the outset in their determination to thwart any attempts by the opposition to advance on their line. With only four minutes gone Ryan Wilson was unfortunate not to score after been held up on the Skin’s line. Then, in the eleventh minute Enniskillen adeptly turned defence into attack with some slick passing along their back line to bring the play deep into the Clogher 22. Then following a series of rucks on the visitor’s goal line Kaine Holden dived through a pile up of bodies to register the opening score of the afternoon. Adam Lendrum, who had an excellent outing at out-half, duly added the conversion.
Shortly after the re-start Clogher substituted their entire front row in an effort to negate the dominment Skin’s front row of Warrington, Cathcart and Fox. Johnny Foster came in as hooker to make his first appearance at Mullaghmeen in Clogher Valley colours since his transfer from Enniskillen for an undisclosed fee during the summer recess.
For the remainder of the half neither side were able to dominate the other, with most of the action centred in the middle third of the pitch. Then, in the thirty-sixth minute the visitors, who were frantically attempting to defend their line, were awarded a scrum in their 22.
When Skins managed to turn the set piece and gain possession, McCleery at scrum half off loaded to Alan Wilkinson, who broke the near side cover tackle and released Jamie Johnston who opted for the direct route and touched down under the visitor’s posts to leave the home side with a fourteen point advantage at the interval.
Enniskillen continued to pressurise the Clogher line and for the opening period after the re-start the visitors were unable to find a way out of their own half. From a scrum just inside Clogher’s 22 McCleery again quickly fed his back line and when the Enniskillen full back Mark O’Shea popped up in the corner to record the third try of the afternoon the result was no longer in doubt.
When Jamie Johnston was yellow carded mid way through the half, for reasons best known to the referee, Clogher did manage to threaten the home side defence and when they were awarded a scrum close to the home line they availed off their numerical advantage and Ryan Wilson touched down after a pushover to claim the visitor’s only score of the afternoon.
Unfortunately for Clogher shortly afterwards key player David Sharkey was forced to retire as a result of injury. Then, when Enniskillen were restored to their full complement of players, they reverted to an open type of play, conducive to the weather conditions and to the delight of the home spectators.
Mark O’Shea again outflanked the Clogher cover twice before the end to register his hat trick of tries for the afternoon.
With ten minutes remaining the Enniskillen coach emptied his bench, affording some new faces an opportunity to experience first XV rugby.
Ashley Finlay, who was outstanding throughout also crossed the visitor’s line twice, firstly after a 45m individual break and then popping up at the end of a well worked move which allowed him to out run the defensive cover.
The game proved a very useful exercise for both sides, with the junior league starting next week, somewhat earlier than previous seasons.
The Ulster Branch have imposed a gruelling fixture list on junior qualifying clubs this season, ostensibly to facilitate senior clubs, with both Clogher and Enniskillen now having five more fixtures to play, in an already cramped schedule. Enniskillen Captain Alan Wilkinson was clearly pleased by the result, crediting the efforts on the training park, but emphasised the contrast between pre season friendlies and their impending league commencement.
"I am very happy with how pre season has gone so far. Saturday was a very solid team performance and we can start to see the hard work in training pay off on the pitch. However Coleraine will be a much tougher test and we will need to raise our performance level once again to pick up a result In what will be a tough away game to start the season."
Clogher entertain CIYMS next week at The Cran, while Enniskillen travel to Coleraine for their opening league encounter.