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A home derby between erstwhile team mates provided an entertaining match at Mullaghmeen on Saturday. Portora’s Medallion side took on a mixture of U15 and U16 players from Enniskillen on a morning that threatened heavy rain but, fortunately, failed to deliver in that regard. The match on the other hand delivered a well contested game of rugby with both sides taking the opportunity to give their benches some game time.
Although there was very little between the teams for the entire match Enniskillen would have to be given the nod for the first 15 minutes. David Patton, Daniel Roofe and Aaron Clarke were strong in the ruck for the Skins where they battled well with Andrew Dane, Chris Balfour and Sam Frasier. Patton also carried well and made a number of powerful runs. Unfortunately a lack of organisation behind the ruck meant that Enniskillen failed to capitalise on their dominance with the ball going astray or loose forwards impeding Matthew Brown’s distribution.
As the game wore on Portora began to match the Skin’s forwards and with consistently accurate kicking from out half Mark Crawford they started to put pressure on the Enniskillen line. A Medallion back move led to a good break by winger Harry Dane who was stopped by David Quill 15m short of the try line. However, the visiting forwards piled in behind Dane and drove him the rest of the way for the first points of the game. Craig Johnston, who seems to be solving the Medallions place kicking problems, stroked an excellent conversion.
Enniskillen came back strongly. Cormac Boylan, Garvin Gilleece and Jack McKee joined their fellow forwards in producing good runs and some fine series of pick and go’s. They repeatedly came close to crossing the Portora line but a lack of organisation and a little indiscipline let them down at the last moment. From one ensuing penalty Crawford’s kick unusually failed to find touch thanks to a good tap back from the Enniskillen left winger. Then, for some strange reason nearly every player on park stopped to see what decision the ref, Robbie Watson, would make. Not so Harry Dane. He was following up Crawford’s kick and when none of the Enniskillen players picked up the ball he simply booted it over the try line, chased after it and touching it down. The referee found no fault with the play and Johnston was permitted a try for the extra points which he did successfully with another fine conversion. Enniskillen got their first points on the boards when Oisin Monaghan kicked a superb penalty in the dying moments of the first half to leave the score 14 -3 in favour of the visitors.
The second half provided more of the same, a fierce struggle in the forwards with the more organised Portora backs making better use of their share of the ball. Both sides brought on subs during the second period and although they performed well there was no seismic shift in the pattern of play. Harry Dane put himself forward for Man of the Match with a penalty kick to add to his two tries but he would have found good competition for the award in the shape of Portora hooker, John Fitzpatrick, who turned the ball over four times in good Sean O’Brien style.
The match was played in an excellent spirit and although the final score line of 17pts to 3pts may flatter the visitors one suspects it will have been very instructive for both sets of coaches going forward.