|Lurgan 1st XV
||17 - 32
||Enniskillen 1st XV
Enniskillen narrowly avoided an embarrassing exit in the 2nd round of the Towns Cup last Saturday away to qualifying three side Lurgan, with a dismal first half display redeemed by a stellar second half performance that sees them qualify for a Towns Cup Quarter Final.
In their current run of form Enniskillen were inevitably going to feel they had the upper hand going into the contest against Lurgan, a mid table side from the league below, but Lurgan came out of the blocks looking keen to cause an upset and quickly had the visitors on the back foot.
Nothing went Enniskillen's way in the early phases as consistent handling errors kept them pinned in their own half, and additionally the referee blunted the Enniskillen scrum threat claiming constant infringements in the contest from Skins, prolonging the time spent battling in their own half and eventually leading to a penalty and three points for the home side. Lurgan continued in the same vein after achieving first blood and the pressure yielded a try when Enniskillen fumbled the ball receiving a kick inside their 22 and this was kicked through by the Lurgan chaser and touched down for an early score. Enniskillen were surely feeling shellshocked at this stage and came back attempting to stamp their authority on the fixture. Some more patient phases had Enniskillen getting into their stride and with the line out functioning well they were able to put together some devastating mauls to trundle up the pitch and cross the line for their first score.
Any notions that Lurgan would lie down now were quickly dashed by a wayward Enniskillen pass in midfield that was intercepted at pace by one of the Lurgan backs, sprinting from the half way to cross the try line, leaving Skins looking dazed and confused but regrouping under the posts for some undoubtedly harsh words. Enniskillen seemed to compose themselves now and start to play more rugby in the opposition half, but a penalty from the boot of Lendrum was their only consolation and the first half ended 17-8 to the home side.
Whatever was said at half time seemed to have the desired effect as Enniskillen shook off their early lethargy and started to dominate proceedings, working their way into the Lurgan half with strong running from Jamie Johnston and Ricky Lee in the back row. Enniskillen started to get the ascendency now in the scrummaging contest and a Lurgan scrum on their own 22 metre line was severely disrupted by the Skins pack and Nick Finlay at scrum half, while tormenting his opposite number, managed to kick a loose ball through and touch it down to bring Skins back into range.
Now holding onto possession much more effectively Skins’ attacking game started to come together well and Lurgan started to concede penalties as they came under pressure in their own half. This was duly punished by the boot as Skins confidently kicked to touch and sought to extend the scoreline through their driving maul. Lurgan stood off the maul in an attempt to get the penalty but, with the help of some good communication at the back of the maul, Kaine Holden quickly turned and went through the gap at the line out to cross for another try.
Skins had their tails up now and were soon back in the Lurgan half looking for points. After some patient pick and go’s inside the 22 Finlay sent the ball wide to Wilkinson on a hard line from inside centre who found a gap and passed to Jack Harte who touched down under the posts. There was no question of the result now and the game ended 32-17 to Enniskillen after their nervy first half against a very determined Lurgan side. Skins will surely be keen to put that first half performance behind them but the psychological strength to come back from such a disastrous 40 minutes will undoubtedly benefit them in future games. Coach Norman Richmond expressed the importance of staying focused for the full 80 minutes when it comes to cup rugby.
"We started the game well but some simple basic mistakes put us under adverse pressure allowing Lurgan to score two tries heading into the end of the first half. The boys dug in as we started the second half and finally started to play some good rugby resulting in our progression to the Quarter Finals of the Towns Cup. In reflection had this been a better team, and that is no disrespect to Lurgan who continued to play for the 80 minutes, our cup run could have been prematurely ended”
The 1st XV put cup rugby on hold for a couple of weeks now as they return to league action away to Randalstown this weekend, keen to maintain their position at 3rd in the table and also apply some pressure on Coleraine who sit at 2nd place behind Carrickfergus.