|Enniskillen 1st XV
||46 - 7
||Larne 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV continued their excellent league form with a resounding 46-7 win at home over visitors Larne on Saturday past. Due to conference and cup fixtures this was only Enniskillen’s 5th league fixture so far, an unusual feature for a Skins side in late November and a stern test to reestablish momentum. The intent was evident from the Mullaghmeen men from the start with the back row setting the tone early; Jamie Johnston carried hard at the opposition and John Courtney at number eight had some aggressive clashes with the Larne defence. Good running from Ashley Finlay gained substantial ground to put Larne under pressure, forcing them to give away a penalty at the ruck which Adam Lendrum sent sailing to touch on the 22. The ensuing lineout taken by Richie Johnston was mauled to devastating effect all the way from the 22 metre line right up the try line where Jamie Johnston crossed for first blood, converted by Lendrum.
Larne looked shellshocked by the initial onslaught from the home side and this continued in the same vein as, right from the restart, David Buchanan hit a great line at the edge of the ruck to bring play back into the opposition half. Aptly supported by the forwards there were some good phases of attack before Larne gave away another penalty, and Lendrum duly sent it through the uprights to extend the lead 10-0. Larne seemed to wake up at this point and the next 15 minutes were a thrilling end to end contest between the two sides. Ashley Finlay and James Ferguson linked well to make some excellent ground in attack as did Mark O’Shea on the counter attack. Larne were guilty of lacking precision and two penalty kicks failed to make touch during the period, leaving them open to the counter attack of Skins’ formidable back three combination. Additionally the Larne backline looked capable with ball in hand and were unusually eager to kick away possession at times, which seemed the wrong option under the circumstances. Small handling errors with the try line in sight stopped either team from capitalising on some excellent phases during the period but it undoubtedly made for spectacular viewing. Cover tackling from Mark O’Shea and Matty Maguire kept Larne off the scoreboard on two occasions when handling errors left Enniskillen looking sure to concede. Enniskillen probably played a little too much rugby in their own half during this period but were patient in defence; the line out continuing to work well and a nicely executed catch and drive gave Lendrum the ball to clear their lines and relieve some pressure.
An early reshuffle was required then as Nick Finlay had to leave the field through injury, forcing Maguire to scrum half and back rower Richie Johnston to the wing. Skins were unperturbed by the changes and resumed scoring ways after pressure in the Larne half forced a crooked throw and a resultant Skins scrum, a contest in which the front row of Warrington, Cathcart and Fox were well in the ascendency; followed up with a powerful drive by Courtney from the tail to cross the line for another score, unconverted to leave the scoreline 15-0.
Larne applied some good pressure in response and their fullback proved himself a dangerous counter attacking threat. Matty Maguire made a long range break up to the visitors 22 metre line only for a knock on by the support to let Larne off the hook. A surprising twist against the run of play came off the resulting scrum as the Larne scrum-half made a break down the wing from inside his own half and offloaded to their winger for a well worked individual try to keep them in contention.
Enniskillen quickly suppressed the resurgence when, after some back and forth kicking off the restart, Matty Maguire broke the stalemate and weaved his way from his own 22 metre line into the Larne half with John Courtney in support to take the offload, then through James Ferguson to Ashley Finlay who sprinted over the line for a spectacular score, unconverted leaving the half at 20-7.
Larne had slightly more ball early in the second half but the defensive pressure from Skins was relentless and the visitors found themselves retreating in attack. Enniskillen found themselves within reach of the tryline yet again after a steal from John Courtney and well placed pressure kick through from James Ferguson set up a lineout deep in the Larne half. The ball was shifted through the backline where Finlay threaded a grubber kick in behind the Larne defence for makeshift winger Richie Johnston, who timed his dive well to take a score in the corner, a difficult conversion from the touchline sent through the posts by Lendrum.
The counter from the restart was unstoppable yet again but an unfortunate knock on stopped the skins advance. Fortunately the Enniskillen scrum was in devastating form and a penalty was awarded to the home side after a huge drive. Lendrum found touch and the resultant line out and maul was very much by the book for Jamie Johnston to cross the line for an unconverted score, leaving the tally at 32-7. The Skins backs continued to look formidable and only for small errors the scoreline could have escalated much further, but the adventurous style of play was well worth some opportunities gone amiss. The continued Enniskillen defensive pressure had Larne pinned in their own half and eventually embroiled in another Enniskillen scrum 5 metres out. The drive from the Skins pack was irrepressible and the referee was quick to award the penalty try as Larne attempted in vain to wheel and collapse the contest, converted to bring the score to 39-7.
A break from Kaine Holden off the restart, followed by a slick off load to Jamie Johnston, made excellent ground to instantly put Larne on the back foot yet again. Larne, to their credit, refused to lie down and managed to thwart some promising looking breaks from Mark O’Shea and Matty Maguire. The visitors almost had the last say in the contest with some good pressure in the Skins half but Ashley Finlay covered back well in defence and Lendrum managed a decent clearance. The Enniskillen backs got their hands on the ball once again following a Larne fumble and looked likely to cross the line yet again, but a knock on from the backs gifted Larne the mixed blessing of a scrum in their own half. Skins continued their dominance in this area and forced a knock on at the back of the Larne scrum; Skins’ scrummaging response was a better effort and Johnston used the momentum well to score under the posts, converted by Lendrum to finish the contest 46-7.
It was a great display from Enniskillen and will undoubtedly be the talk of the weekend amongst the Qualifying Two competitors seeking league honours this season. However the league is still at a very early stage and any predictions would be pointlessly premature, 4 wins from 5 for Enniskillen still leaving them just inside the top half of this very competitive and unforgiving division. The 1st XV have a weekend off now before heading away to face Academy and settling in for a long run of consecutive league games which will test this talented side to produce consistent results.