|Enniskillen 1st XV
||18 - 11
||Randalstown 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV continued to improve their league fortunes at the weekend with their first home league fixture ending in victory over Randalstown RFC, another side who have improved substantially over the past few seasons and could be a dark horse to contend for league honours. However, it was not an easy win for the home side who will admit there are still plenty of areas of their game they can improve on.
It was a confident start from Enniskillen who ended up deep in Randalstown’s half in the opening minutes; then retrieving the ball from a failed kick attempt which almost resulted in an early try but for some good tackling from the visitors. Randalstown resisted the onslaught well though and made good ground back into the Enniskillen half. The defence from the home side looked resolute but an unfortunate intercept allowed Randalstown to register first blood and cross the try line for an unconverted 5 points. Although Enniskillen showed their maturity and recovered immediately with great pressure from the restart and some tenacious work at the breakdown had Randalstown penalised for holding on to the ball on the ground, giving Adam Lendrum a successful attempt at 3 points to leave the score 3-5.
Randalstown again came back to pressure the Enniskillen try line but the defence from the home side was exceptional and crucial cover tackles from the back row and Steven Fox sufficed to keep the opposition out. A clever box kick from scrum half Ricky Connor, with relentless pressure from Ashley Finlay on the Randalstown full back, gave Skins some valuable territory to turn the tables on Randalstown. An eventual Skins line out on the 5-metre line was well worked from Cathcart to Cadden and, following an effective maul, was finished under the posts by Jamie Johnston to put Skins in the lead 8-5.
It was blow for blow for some time with a high penalty count back and forth from both sides. Eventually Randalstown were the first to exhaust the referee’s patience resulting in their tight head prop leaving the field with a yellow card. Skins duly took advantage of this and the second try was much the same as the first with a line out on the 5-metre line taken by Kaine Holden and a clinical maul sending Michael Cadden over the line; converted by Lendrum to leave the score 15-5. Another penalty before the end of the half from Lendrum left Enniskillen with an impressive 18-5 lead at the half.
The second half was a much tighter affair with Randalstown doing well to repel some impressive carries in their own half from Jamie Johnston at number eight and the dynamic Mark O’Shea on the wing. Discipline was ever waning as Randalstown were awarded another yellow card in the second half while breakdown infringements from the home side gave the visitors two successful penalty attempts to leave the lead a mere 18-11.
Enniskillen could have at times been more clinical while mounting pressure inside the opposition 22 metre line and should arguable have come away with points on a number of occasions. On a positive note the defence from the home side was excellent as Randalstown put together some formidable attacking phases in the second half which Enniskillen dealt with expertly, particularly during the final 10 minute melee where Randalstown fought to cross the line for a potential draw. However, the home side held out admirably and are well placed in the league as they go into a month of Junior Cup fixtures and the contentious Conference league where they will take on 2nd XV sides from senior ulster clubs.
Coach Norman Richmond was undoubtedly tense in the final minutes of the fixture but was overall content with the result.
“From a coaching perspective I was pleased with the result on Saturday although we still do have an uncanny knack of putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure, especially for the first try. But in general i’m content with the win. Notable performances from Ricky Lee and Steven Fox who continued to work themselves around the park throughout the day and within the back line Adam Lendrum continues to impress. Ballymena this week will be a difficult challenge as a large number of the players are away in Cardiff for the start of the World Cup from both the 1XV and 2XV.”