|Carrickfergus 1st XV
||9 - 8
||Enniskillen 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV’s recent league reprisal hit a severe snag last Saturday with a painfully narrow 9-8 defeat away to Carrickfergus RFC, admittedly their toughest league fixture of the season on paper given the Carrick side’s position at top of the league standings.
It was a frustrating day for Enniskillen who will feel hard done by given their dominance at the scrum and their continued ability in defence, but the number of penalties conceded and the relentless disruption at the breakdown from the home side made it all but impossible for Skins to build any momentum.
Skins started strongly and the front row of Warrington, Cathcart and Fox were tormenting the opposition front row, driving them off their own ball constantly, eventually earning the penalty which allowed out half Lendrum to take the three points and put Skins in the lead.
Carrick responded well by working their way back into Enniskillen territory, turning over a lot of Enniskillen possession in open play to disrupt their attack, and eventually the referee awarded Carrick the penalty for an Enniskillen breakdown infringement, effectively levelling the score 3-3. Play continued in the same vein as the referee seemed to favour Carrick’s work in the breakdown contest and another penalty within kicking distance gave Carrick a 6-3 lead.
Enniskillen focused their efforts now and set up camp deep in the Carrick half, missing with a penalty attempt but then inflicting a number of punishing scrums on the Carrick pack and forcing another penalty; refusing attempts at goal Skins continued the scrummaging contest expecting to drive them over the line or possibly get awarded the penalty try. However, the Carrick scrum managed to endure the onslaught and the home side defence held for a time. Soon afterwards the pressure from Enniskillen finally wrought rewards. After sustained carries just inside the Carrick 22 metre line, the ball went across the backline and wide to James Ferguson on the right wing who crossed the line for an excellent finish in the corner, unconverted to put Skins in the lead 8-6 at the end of the half.
Again Enniskillen had the Lion’s share of possession in the second half and Ashley Finlay from full back had some piercing counter attacks, while David Buchanan also made a fantastic break from well inside his own half to bring play up to the opposition 22 metre line, however it was errors and constant penalties which continued to shut down the Skins attack. Penalties inside Enniskillen’s own half were becoming a common occurrence now too and the Carrick kicker, after missing one attempt which bounced off the left post, soon sent another kick sailing through the uprights to put the home side 9-8 up.
Enniskillen now desperately sought points before the final whistle and Carrick, to their credit, defended well against some enterprising play from the vistors. A few attempts went wanting as an Adam Lendrum penalty to take the lead drifted wide and an attempted drop goal from Nick Finlay in the dying minutes fell short, only to be almost collected out wide by the chasing Enniskillen backs, but to be unfortunately knocked on, and from the resulting Carrick scrum the ball was kicked dead to end the game.
The defence from the home team was solid on the day and they effectively hampered an Enniskillen side who showed with their try in the first half just how dangerous they can be with ball in hand. Skins now look to their huge Town’s Cup Final on Easter Monday where they face an impressive Bangor side at Kingspan Stadium.