|Enniskillen 1st XV
||16 - 0
||Ballynahinch 2nd XV
Enniskillen 1st XV 16
Ballynahinch 2nd XV 0
Enniskillen 1XV took to the field last Saturday in a replay of last year’s Towns Cup quarter final against Ballynahinch 2XV who went on to win the prestigious Cup. The Hinch side came down full of confidence believing that this game was only going to go one way, however the men from Mullaghameen had a very different view.
The game started quickly and the Hinch team declared their hand early, they looked to run the ball at every opportunity only to be hit by a wall of maroon jerseys at every turn. Attack after attack was repelled by the excellent defence of Enniskillen. The pack led by Kaine Holden continued to make life difficult for the Hinch team, with Nick Finlay and Adam Lendrum’s exit strategy keeping Skins in the right part of the field. Hinch had 2 opportunities to kick for goal but decided to play into the corners, requiring good defensive work in the line out to keep the scoreboard at bay.
Enniskillen were then rewarded with a penalty just inside the Hinch half on the touchline and Adam Lendrum, who continues to grow in stature within the team, calmly and confidently struck the ball between the posts to give Skins a 3-0 lead. Within minutes again Hinch infringed on the other side of the pitch and Lendrum took another 3 points leaving the scoreboard 6-0. The game continued with both sides trading good attacking opportunities but nobody able to break the line. From a scrum, Nick Finlay whipped the ball out to Lendrum to release Alan Wilkinson at centre who crashed the ball up committing two of the Hinch defenders before popping the ball up for Matty Maguire who glided through and beat another 2 defenders to score under the posts, and Lendrum duly converted the additional 2 points leaving the score line 13-0 to Enniskillen. This passage of play certainly took the wind out the Hinch sails as they started to bicker amongst themselves, from another play they caused a further infringement and Lendrum again slotted 3 points just before half time leaving the first half 16-0.
At halftime, the focus was clear, the players knew that they were going to be into a torrid next 40 minutes as Hinch would not and are not a team to lie down and relinquish their grasp on the Towns Cup easily. The game continued in the same vein as the first half as Hinch played an expansive game but each attack was thwarted by great defence. Ten minutes into the second half and a lazy attempt to roll away by a hinch player at the breakdown resulted in Michael Cadden getting 10 minutes in the bin for his actions as he made sure that the Hinch defenders would not make the same mistake again. The resulting penalty attempt was missed by the Hinch centre. This was a tense 10 minute period playing with 14 men against an ever attacking Hinch team; a clever break down the blind side saw Ashley Finlay grubber the ball down the pitch and Stevie Neill, who had replaced Zach Charlton on the wing, harried the Hinch 15 who failed to find any distance from his kick. Man for man every Skins player worked their bodies to the limit quelling any chance that Hinch created. With 20 minutes to go, and Cadden back on the field, the game intensified and Mullaghmeen became a bubbling cauldron. The player’s ball retention was key and they ultimately starved them of any possession to release a fancied Hinch backline. Hinch attacked relentlessly, and at one point after an excellent break down the wing, superb tackling from Ashley Finlay and James Ferguson saw the attack fail short of the line. Captain Alan Wilkinson rallied all the players again as the time continued to tick away asking a selfless performance to ensure that the line wasn’t going to be crossed, to be fair to the visitors they threw everything at the home side but couldn’t break the line. The final whistle went leaving the score line Enniskillen 16 Ballynahinch 0 and Skins proceeding into the semi-final draw for this seasons Town Cup.
This game was a pure battle of attrition, massive performances from every player on the park, within the pack the front row of Gavin Warrington, Stephen Welsh and Steven Fox fought and competed well, strong carries up into the Hinch pack continued to starve them of the ball. In the second row Kaine Holden maintained the players focus and partnered with David Buchanan caused havoc against their opposite players. A lot of credit must go to the back row partnership of Michael Cadden, Richie Johnston and man of the match performance form Ricky Lee who devastated the Hinch pack. Nick Finlay spoiled a lot of ball at the Hinch scrum, pressurising the opposing 8 and 9 as they tried to move the ball. Lendrum is maturing well at 10, a member of Portora 1st XV just last season he has made the conversion to senior rugby well. Wilkinson and Maguire reunited in the centre continue to test teams defence and a back three to choose between Zach Charlton, Stevie Neill, James Ferguson and Ashley Finlay oozes pace, style and attacking rugby that has been missing from the club for a few years. Coach Norman Richmond was immensely proud of every player, “the team played with a passion and desire not seen for a while! There will be some very sore players over the weekend as they put their bodies on the line and delivered an 80 minute performance that reiterates that rugby is still very strong in the West of the province. This is further proven with the fact that Clogher Valley and Omagh have also secured their places in the semi-final of The Towns Cup, with Bangor also in the mix. I’m really pleased that the players have taken this next step in their season and a step that I believe that they fully deserve, I’ve believed in them over the last 2 seasons and this result is justified!” When asked who he would like in the semi-final, he replied “anyone at Mullaghmeen, but at this stage if you want to get your hands on silverware you have to be on form and beat the best teams wherever. It would be great to play in a local derby against Clogher Valley or Omagh but I’ll just have to wait until Monday’s Draw and then plan accordingly”.
Richmond didn’t have long to ponder potential opponents as Monday afternoon’s draw saw Enniskillen matched up in an exciting local derby away to Clogher Valley in what should be a spectacular occasion, set for the 12th March. Next week will see Enniskillen returning to the League campaign with an important away match to Lisburn as they continue to try and catch the top 2 teams, Carrick and Coleraine, as they seek to return to Q1 rugby.