|Ballyclare 1st XV
||35 - 24
||Enniskillen 1st XV
Ballyclare 1st XV 35
Enniskillen 1st XV 24
Enniskillen First XV’s Junior Cup campaign came to a regrettable end on Saturday away to Ballyclare RFC in a contest which will leave the Skins side feeling disappointed, appearing on the day that they were well capable of putting a shock upset on the Qualifying League One side. In a tale that was not unlike the tragic Ireland performance seen on Sunday afternoon, the Enniskillen side did a lot right in the game, particularly in their attacking phases, but it was some defensive lapses which simply left them with too much work to do in the end.
In the early stages it was Enniskillen’s discipline that let them down, gifting Ballyclare far too many penalty opportunities which they utilised with clinical precision throughout. The penalties were mostly coming from around the ruck area and credit must go to Ballyclare’s exceptional ability to disrupt the breakdown on Enniskillen’s own ball, the Ballyclare back row proving to be quick to the ruck and difficult to shift over the ball. The early penalty exchanges had Ballyclare leading 6-3, with the boot of Nick Finlay keeping Enniskillen on their heels, until some swift hands from the Ballyclare backline led to a try in the corner to give the home side some decent breathing room.
Enniskillen composed themselves well in reaction to this and started to patiently apply pressure in the Ballyclare half, failing to come away with a try but starting to chip away with penalty kicks from the boot of Finlay to put them trailing a mere 11-9. However, the home side soon managed to set up camp deep in the Enniskillen half and, after weathering the attack for some time, the Ballyclare out-half glided through a gap in the drifting Enniskillen defence to go under the posts for a converted score. Another penalty came soon afterwards for Ballyclare to leave the score 21-9 and Enniskillen looking well adrift. However, refusing to fall into old habits and accept an unflattering scoreline, Enniskillen came back battling hard and started to utilise some of the excellent interplay between forwards and backs that we’ve seen them display so far this season; some excellent back and forth passing between Michael Law and Ashley Finlay out wide baffling defenders and leading to a try for Nathan Richmond at the end of the first half, conversion missed.
The second half did not start according to plan as, after some good direct running from Skins in midfield, a wayward pass due to some apparent communication error bounced perfectly for one of the Ballyclare backs to give them a clean path to the tryline for a converted score. 28-14.
Again Enniskillen composed themselves and began putting confident phases together, eventually forcing a penalty and the resultant kick providing a lineout deep in the Ballyclare half; the line out continued its recent form and the resultant maul gave Skins a much needed score from Ricky Lee off the back, conversion unsuccessful. The Enniskillen defence simply failed to hold out long enough to give them a chance at reprisal as shortly after this score Ballyclare once again broke the line in the backs and, with admittedly well worked support play, delivered some well placed offloads to take their fourth try, converted once again.
Enniskillen continued to search for another score and pinned Ballyclare back in their own half, utilising the scrum, a dominant area for Enniskillen throughout, to try and rumble over the line. Skins managed one more score before the final whistle, with Nick FInlay crossing the line from a dominant scrum, but it was too little too late as the contest ended 35-24.
Enniskillen host Malone 2nd XV at home this weekend in their final conference league fixture, kicking off at the earlier time of 2.00pm to accommodate the world cup semi final, all support welcome.