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Enniskillen ladies travelled away to Cavan RFC in a highly anticipated league decider contest last Sunday 28th Feb.
In bright clear conditions the two sides faced off in what proved to be an intense physical encounter for the duration of the game. Within the opening 5 minutes Cavan showed their physicality, particularly in the scrummaging contest, but a great command of the ball and fast offloading between number 8 Leona Connolly and scrumhalf Katherine Dane culminated in a penalty awarded in front of the posts, and an easy conversion for Dane to put the first points on the board.
Cavan responded with a penalty kick of their own within a number of minutes, with threatening speed and power from their left winger earning yards. Possession remained with Cavan following the kickoff, but great Skins pressure in defence culminated in a knock-on and another skins push up the field.
In what was a running theme for the game, the first skins line out was stolen by Cavan, but with the help of some determined defence, play remained around the midfield point. Some powerful charges by the skins pack, namely Ashling Maguire and Alana McCaffrey, brought skins to within yards of the try line, where a number of forward pick and drives sucked in Cavan players in defence. From this play on the right wing the ball was passed quickly through the hands of the backline, with left-wing Leanne Hall bounding across the tryline for her first try of the season, and a beautiful hard-earned team try on the 30 minute mark. Dane’s boot was on point yet again to convert this first try.
Cavan returned to play eager to equalise and proved dangerous at the breakdown where once again Skins were slow to react at the ruck. Although remedying this in the second half, it resulted in a number of turnovers, most notably just before the break when, against the run of play, Skins lost possession through a turnover ball which was passed out to the Cavan 11 who ran from just beyond their 22 to touch down in the left corner.
Luckily, another penalty kick from Dane left Skins sitting with a 13-8 lead at half time.
Both sides retained their intensity coming into the second half, with Skins focusing more on their rucking and counter-rucking at the breakdown. Play remained largely around the middle of the pitch for the first 20 minutes of the half, proving extremely physical on a soft energy sapping pitch. An injury to Collette McMorrow after a counter ruck saw the introduction of Aine Stennet, and additionally, after providing excellent pressure and charging runs all day, Alana McCaffrey too had to leave the field.
With both sides tiring from this physical slog it was ultimately the pace of the younger players which gave skins the edge in the final 20 minutes. Dane worked tirelessly at 9 and synced up well with Leona Connolly off the scrums. After a Cavan scrum was turned over, Dane skipped through the Cavan defence, linking up with Connolly whose fancy footwork eluded the remaining Cavan defence and she touched down right behind the posts. Within the final 10 minutes Skins' mauls off the lineout really came together against a tiring Cavan defence, with returning player Wendy Rodgers lending her experience at the lineout. McCaffrey returned to the field for the final 5 minutes and just before the final whistle the nail in the Cavan coffin came. A Cavan clearance kick within 10 yards of their touch line was caught by full back Alice Hurst, who danced through players from both teams to score a try of her own, again converted by Dane.
The final score finished 27-8. The work rate and dedication of every player was commendable, with the result of the match a worthy reflection of the hard work of the girls throughout the entire league campaign. With the Ulster League One title in the bag the Ladies continue to compete for honours in the Rosie Stewart Cup, with the next round yet to be drawn. The Ladies would like to thank their sponsor Pat Blake for continued support and all the supporters who travelled for the game.