||18 - 14
||Enniskillen 1st XV
On Saturday morning, as the rest of the nation’s rugby enthusiasts awaited Ireland’s World Cup opener in Cardiff against Japan, Enniskillen 1st XV and 2nd XV both ventured to Ballymena for their routine fixtures; both sides undoubtedly slightly distracted by the International fixtures, and without question affected by the number of players absent and bound for the Millennium stadium, but nevertheless both sides dutifully fielded for the encounter, with the 1st XV playing Ballymena 2XV in the contentious Senior Conference League, and the 2nd XV playing Ballymena 5XV in Junior League 4.
The 1st XV started the encounter fairly strong and, despite looking slightly disjointed at times with a lot of new faces in the side, they still looked to have a physical edge on the home side. This was aptly demonstrated in the scrummaging contest where the Skins’ front row seemed to have their opposition well and truly dominated, and it looked like this could be a leisurely exercise for the visitors. The referee, however, seemed to disagree with the legality of the contest and this was to epitomise the theme of the fixture as the Ballymena out-half, to his credit, seemed sure to register 3 points from a penalty just about anywhere in Enniskillen’s half. The defence from Enniskillen was tenacious and they continuously resisted some sustained periods of pressure on their own line. However, the penalties continued to come and the points began to rack up for the home side with Enniskillen clearly frustrated by some of the referee’s decisions.
Errors and ill discipline in the first half made it difficult for Enniskillen to maintain possession and they never really put any consistent attacking phases together, but their trademark defence remained difficult to break down. Enniskillen did finally manage to compose themselves in the second half and settle into their game plan for a time as a penalty awarded to them on the half way was intricately kicked to touch by Adam Lendrum to give them a line out close to the 5 metre line. The resultant line out to Kaine Holden was taken at the back of the maul by Richard Grey, who crossed the line through heavy traffic for the first try of the contest.
With a Ballymena prop leaving the field through injury, Enniskillen’s potent weapon of the scrum was forced to go uncontested which made the uphill struggle ever steeper. All this considered Skins still seemed to have the superior fitness in the contest and continued to stage a reprisal late in the second half. A sustained period of pressure with ball in hand from the forwards inside the Ballymena 22 metre line was shifted out through scrum half Ricky Connor to Alan Wilkinson, hitting a powerful line from inside centre, who then forced his way over the line. Unfortunately the accumulating penalties were just too numerous to overturn in time and the contest ended 18-14 to Ballymena.
To be critical, in hindsight, Enniskillen probably weren’t as structured or as physical as they had been in previous weeks, and they will undoubtedly rue allowing the referee’s decisions to get under their skin and clearly affect their composure. However, on a positive note the home side never crossed the Enniskillen try line, and never really looked likely to do so for the majority of the game, while Enniskillen registered two well worked tries and looked to have the potential to run rampant under different circumstances. The game was also a good opportunity for some new players to shine and those individuals gave a good account of their abilities on the day.
Richard Willis' 2nd XV side didn’t fair much better as they only enjoyed half an hour of rugby, where they were admittedly under pressure from the Ballymena opposition, before the referee suffered an unexpected injury and with no replacement available was forced to abandon the contest and split the points.
Enniskillen now regroup for what should be an enjoyable weekend at Mullaghmeen as this Friday night the 3rd XV take on Clogher Valley under floodlights at 7.30pm; then on the Saturday the 1st XV take on Grosvenor in their first junior cup game while the 2nd XV take on Portadown 3XV, Kick off at 2.30pm.