||22 - 34
||Enniskillen 1st XV
Saturday, 17 September 2016 Conference League
BALLYMENA 2ND XV 22
ENNISKILLEN 1st XV 34
Enniskillen 1st XV took to the field last Saturday on a balmy, sunny Autumn afternoon to face Ballymena 2nd XV in the Senior Conference League; the countryside at its impressive best with no wind at the spacious Eton Park Grounds of Ballymena; an immaculate turf and two well matched, well coached sides pitting their wits and athleticism against each other. It was an excellent rugby encounter, seven tries in all, no injuries. What’s not to like about Conference League Rugby? All of about twelve people spectated on the contest that, despite being merely for bragging rights, was an entertaining fixture. The only blemish was a red card administered after thirty minutes to a Ballymena flanker for repeat off side offending, earning a yellow, and defiance against the decision earning a red. Enniskillen ended up the deserved winners by a twelve point margin, but the sending off leaves some doubt.
Ballymena had the better of the early encounters and worked a well taken try after six minutes. The Enniskillen pack surged back to earn an easy penalty to creep up to 5-3. More Enniskillen pressure continued to beat Ballymena into submission, and a well taken try by debutante scrum half, Scott Burrell, following a break from the back of a rampant scrum, increased Enniskillen’s lead to 10-5 with a Lendrum conversion. Again Ballymena backs responded with a good try and conversion, exploiting some defensive slips. Good running and off loading from the forwards allowed Enniskillen prop, Gareth Beatty through a gap for a thirty yard charge from half way.
A final Ballymena reprisal back from their own half just before half time, however, yielded a penalty reward and saw the teams turn around with Ballymena leading 15 points to 10.
Within five minutes of the start of the second half after Enniskillen began to look more composed, their scrum was supremely dominant and the line out much improved from earlier blips, leaving Ballymena struggling to retain possession. After sustained pressure it was Enniskillen flanker, Jack Harte, who broke a resolute Ballymena defence to score under the posts. Ten minutes later Enniskillen centre, Michael Law broke through on the 22 metre line to score; again touching down under the posts.
The Ballymena backs again retaliated with a well taken try and conversion. By now the loss of a man was telling on the Ballymena pack. Enniskillen were dominating the scrums and loose play with good driving and offloading, the lineouts however still in the home side’s favour. The last fifteen minutes saw Enniskillen parked in the Ballymena 22 metre area. All the newcomers to the side, Burrell, McCabe, Balmer, Law and Monteith performed very creditably. The Enniskillen man of the match award however, has to go to Jack Harte. The match itself was in doubt until the last ten minutes but a final score out wide following a scrum on the Ballymena 5 metre line put the result to bed, ending the contest 34-22.
It was a match the doubters of the Conference League would have enjoyed. Most praise should be reserved for Enniskillen Coach, Willie Gibson, whose rolling substitutions and general rugby nous are benefiting both the team and the Club.