|Enniskillen 3rd XV
||17 - 20
The 3rd XV season kicked off in pleasant sunshine at Mullaghmeen on Saturday. Due to a breakdown in communication Strabane arrived an hour late for kick-off, perhaps this unsettled the inexperienced skins side who started nervously conceding a penalty and the first points early on. However, led by their main ball carrier, the evergreen Ross Duncan who was often supported by the equally hungry Alan Ferguson, the forwards soon brought it to the larger Strabane pack and began to dominate them up front. With the rangy Frankie Fee assisted by his tenacious backrow partner, debutant Gordon Gregg covering a lot of ground in support, the backline began to spread the ball and stretch Strabanes defence. It was indeed good back play with a draw and give by the jinky running centre, debutant John McLaughry, that created the space for the fullback speedster Gareth Donaldson who duely beat the last defender to run in under the posts for his and Skins' first try of the day. It was a welcome return after a season out for Donaldson who soon added his second, ignoring his support he showed good speed and strength to hand off and round three would be defenders before grounding. It wasn't all going Enniskillens way, Strabane dominated the scrums and lineouts were a lottery at times, but it was their strong running outhalf who broke through some uncharacteristically weak tackles to register Strabanes first score. Unfortunately after the referee bizarrely allowed play to continue after the failed conversion attempt, Fee got an unlucky kick to the head after bravely diving on the ball resulting in him sitting the remainder of the half on the sideline. This didn't deter the skins pack from going back on the attack, another debutant, prop Aaron Love moved into second row and immediately played his part in driving the pack forward through ruck and maul along with last years under 18 hooker Lee McDonnell, who looked thoroughly at home in senior rugby. After the skins pack were held short of the Strabane tryline it was the quick thinking of the new streamlined Stevie Tummons who caught everyone by surprise and picked up to and doze over from two yards out. Fresher scrumhalf Sam Greenaway who recycled consistently well all day converted third time lucky leaving the halftime score 17-8.
With retirement due to a recurring back injury of new daddy Adi Breen in the second half it was great to have the equally experienced lock Richie Grey come on and add his physicality to the game. Dean Cashel who had fielded and countered confidently on the wing also retired to allow the oldest team mate Jimmy Taggart to test himself after a long period of injury, and in usual form he carried ball with intent. However, it was a game of two halves and as skins tired Strabane grew stronger and after several breaks and attacks close to the skins tryline they finally got over reducing the deficit to a single score for a nervy last 15 minutes. Despite an inspired and equally unlikely kick chase by Ferguson, who also managed a subsequent turnover, and some excellent use of the wind when kicking to relieve the pressure by makeshift outhalf Mark Connors, welcomed back after a three year break, skins struggled to gain sufficient possession and territory. Chris Henry defended gallantly in mid field winning procession back several times, and in true captain spirit Richie Willis not only tackled but drove attackers backwards time after time to the final minute. Inevitably after conceding another penalty on their 22 metre line at the near death of the contest an exhausted skins couldn't repel the onslaught, Strabane’s forwards recycled and dived over at the base of the post, duely converting to leave the final score 17-20 in the visitors favour. It seemed harsh, especially as just before the half time whistle impressive wing Ryan Irwin was very unfortunate not to gather the pass at the end of a great phase for a certain score to probably seal the win.
However, some inexperience and a little lack of composure when in the lead, particularly tapping and going three times before coughing up possession, rather than using the wind to kick for touch and territory, and being marched 10 metres for throwing the ball away after conceding a penalty are small lessons to learn. Considering eight of this team are in their first year of senior rugby, and given the attitude and determination witnessed against formidable opposition, the future looks bright for this skins team as they prepare to face Finn Valley at home next Saturday.