|Enniskillen 1st XV
||18 - 7
||Instonians 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV 18
Instonians 1st XV 7
Following their first defeat in the league away to Dromore the previous week Enniskillen 1st XV had a historic reprisal on Saturday as they claimed an 18-7 victory at Mullaghmeen over league favourites and former AIL stalwarts Instonians.
The conditions were calm and dry despite a precursor of heavy rain which still left the terrain slightly damp, but all in all it was still an expansive and entertaining display as well as a wholly physical confrontation between the two forward packs.
The Enniskillen side were clearly primed for the encounter as they looked the more aggressive of the two sides from the restart, also looking determined to stifle any possession gained by the Belfast side. Skins made good ground from the kickoff after a high tackle, following a great take from David Buchanan, yielded a penalty. Skins showed excellent decision making now for the next 40 minutes as they pinned the visitors hopelessly in their own half. The Instonians line out was expertly disrupted by Carleton and Holden, leaving them starved of possession and unable to clear their lines. A penalty soon came at the breakdown just inside the Inst 22 metre line allowing John Maguire at out half to draw first blood with a kick for goal to go 3-0 up.
Admittedly Instonians did well to defend the Enniskillen back line and were quick up in defence which left limited opportunities for wingers Balmer and Baloucoune, who looked dangerous in space. The greasy surface made for a fair few handling errors and plentiful scrums to the delight of the Enniskillen pack. A scrum in the Instonians half looked to have been driven back 20 metres by the pack with the Beatty boys and Cathcart at the fore; credit going to the visiting forwards who didn’t opt for the escape route of collapse. Instonians, however, continued to get penalised for petty breakdown errors as they tried to deal with the constantly encroaching Enniskillen attack and soon Maguire added to his tally with a well placed kick just inside the half to go 6-0 up.
The visitors managed to hold the scoreline for the remainder of the half and did well to defend the Skins maul and carries from Johnston and Lee, as well as some good running lines from O’Shea and Finlay in the back line. There was still no real gain in territory for Instonians as Enniskillen continued to dominate the set piece, with Welsh also slotting ably into prop intermittently, this combined with continued penalties from Instonians left them with no long term possession throughout the first half.
In the driving seat at the start of the second half Skins continued to control the game patiently and used an early penalty to kick to the corner and look to set up a maul. A fumble at the resultant line out led to a Skins attacking scrum which gave the backs some good front foot ball to draw in the defence. Then a run from Carleton off the ruck against the grain from the 5 metre line caught the defence unaware and he extended his ample reach to touch down for a try, unconverted to go 11-0 up.
Instonians responded well to the Enniskillen try and finally got some ball in hand, their number eight made some charging runs that required a dedicated defensive effort from the home side. Some huge hits came from Carleton and Johnston as they tried to kill the opposition momentum and James Ferguson shepherded the opposing back line well. A failed turnover attempt at the breakdown eventually gave the visitors a penalty attempt; the resultant kick fortuitously bounced off the uprights and Skins calmly cleared their lines. Instonians soon went down to 14 men after repeated breakdown infringements in response to the Enniskillen attack but the momentum stayed with the visitors as they continued to exhibit an improved attacking performance. Following a period of pressure on the Skins 5 metre line Instonians exploited an overlap out wide and crossed the line for a converted try to bring the scoreline to a mere 11-7.
When many may have feared a turn around at this crucial stage, Enniskillen’s response showed a level of psychological prowess lacking from the side in recent years during similar circumstances. Aggressive off the restart Skins were awarded a penalty which they duly kicked to touch and set up a cleanly won line out and maul just outside the opposition 5 metre line; the well formed maul rolled relentlessly over the try line with Richie Beatty taking the honours at the back, converted by Maguire to go 18-7 up with a few minutes to go and the outcome confirmed.
It was a memorable win for the home side against such a well established side but more importantly a very well deserved and clinical victory that featured a passionate defensive display and excellent bit of game management to grind out the desired result. Enniskillen face another tough test this Saturday as they host fellow Q2 promotees Carrickfergus, a side who have also proved more than able for their new standing in Q1 and who have provided some entertaining fixtures in the past for the Mullaghmeen men.