|Enniskillen 1st XV
||25 - 13
||Portadown 1st XV
Enniskillen claim home victory to continue their stellar start to the season
Enniskillen continued their impressive and unprecedented start to the season with a bonus point victory over Portadown RFC, a big hitter in Division 1 and a club with which Skins have numerous connections over the years.
From the outset Portadown claimed possession with a scrum after the Enniskillen kick off drifted too far. The visitors looked determined and carried tenaciously at the home side’s defensive line, particularly good yards made from Skins exports Gary Hall and Gareth McCoy. Portadown worked their way well into Enniskillen territory but the early defensive effort was good and an eventual turnover gave Paddy McCleery at scrum half a chance to clear, with a Portadown knock on giving Skins a scrum way back in the opposition half. A nicely weighted kick from Mark O’Shea at centre put Enniskillen further up the field inside Portadown’s 22’, but some lack of execution at the line out gave the visitors a let off for now. Shortly afterwards Portadown infringed around the ruck area and Lendrum duly kicked to the corner to give Skins another close range opportunity. This time the line out functioned well through Buchanan and Skins gained decent yards from the maul before the ball was sent out to the backs for O’Shea to break through a gap and cross the line on the 10 minute mark, unconverted by Lendrum.
A handling error at the restart put Skins on the back foot again and Portadown continued to apply pressure on Enniskillen in their own half. The defence was good from the home side but some over eagerness around the ruck gifted the visitors a penalty in kickable territory which narrowed the gap to 5-3. Skins continued to play a bit too much rugby in their own half and Portadown almost took the lead from a second penalty, only for it to drift wide of the uprights.
Skins began to look more focused in attack now and good carrying from the forwards brought play well into the Portadown half, bolstered by the impressive scrummaging display from the rotating front row of Ferguson, Cathcart and the two Beattys, which effectively made it very difficult for Portadown to retain possession. Portadown again were penalised deep in their own half shortly afterwards when deemed to be illegally contesting a well worked Skins maul off the line out, allowing Lendrum to extend the lead to 8-3.
Skins will rue their reaction afterwards as they allowed the visitors to creep back up inside their half and cross the line for what was, despite being a well worked backs move from Portadown, still a fairly soft score. Enniskillen recomposed themselves and carried well from the restart with good interplay between the forwards and backs eventually placing them within sight of the opposition try line. A knock on defused the attack but the Skins scrum was rampant and a stolen Portadown put in gave Lee at Number Eight a chance to cross the line that was just held short; quick ball from McCleery out the backs, however, found Ashley Finlay who extended the lead to 13-8 to end the half, unconverted by Lendrum.
Portadown attacked well from the restart and a crucial steal from James Ferguson gave Lendrum an opportunity for a huge clearance to relieve the pressure. There was quiet concern and wry smiles in equal measure amongst the supporters as Skins back rower, and former Portadown captain, James Carleton, saw yellow after a tackle that lacked any clear use of the arms. Portadown immediately used their numerical advantage to good effect as they carried aggressively off a line out near the Skins line, with Gary Hall crossing for a try. As a signal of intent from Skins not to be overrun, Harte and O’Shea successfully charged down the conversion to avoid another two points.
The defence was tenacious from Skins in the following phases as they saw off the Portadown onslaught while down in numbers. A key turnover from Buchanan and a penalty awarded to the home side shortly after would seem to indicate they’d weathered the storm as Carleton returned to the field. A seemingly unstoppable driving maul up the pitch from Skins gained phenomenal yards and claimed a penalty to set up another line out in the corner. A loose pass and knock on from the line out let Portadown off the hook but the ensuing scrum was too much for the visitors to cope with, the Portadown loose head going to the sin bin for failing to keep the scrum up. Lendrum missed his penalty attempt but a scrum shortly afterwards just inside the Portadown half went out the backs who displayed exquisite hands at pace for Steve Neill to finish in the corner, unconverted to leave the scoreline 18-13.
A rallying cry from coach Gibson surely demanded that Skins don’t concede yet another reprisal, and the home side didn’t disappoint as Portadown came back to heavily bombard the Enniskillen line, only to be turned over and cleared by Lendrum. The Skins forwards carried well into the Portadown half with Johnston and Carleton making good yards. Then a sweetly hit line from Kaine Holden at pace just inside the opposition 22’ was found totally unmarked as he touched down for the bonus point try, converted by Lendrum to extend the lead 25-13. Portadown played to the very last and were inches away from claiming a try for the losing bonus point but for last ditch defence from James Ferguson and debutant John McClaughry.
It was an excellent spectacle of rugby as well as an improved and composed performance from Enniskillen, coming from a derby victory against Clogher that could have had the Mullaghmeen men getting carried away. Skins now turn their attention to the Junior Cup this weekend as they play away to fellow league side Omagh, another team who have looked sharp in their start to the season.