|Enniskillen 1st XV
||18 - 6
||Carrick 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV 18
Carrickfergus 1st XV 6
Enniskillen welcomed back the likewise newly promoted Carrick to Mullaghameen last Saturday to renew old acquaintances and a rivalry not forgotten from last season. It was fitting prior to the game kicking off that both teams stood for a minutes silence in recognition of the late Shannon, Munster and Ireland International Anthony "Axel" Foley, who sadly passed away last weekend.
The game kicked off and failure to get a name on the ball put some unnecessary pressure on Skins. David Taylor tidied the loose ball and drove back into the oncoming Carrick forwards and, when passed back to John Maguire under pressure he failed to control the ball and Skins lost possession. Carrick quickly fed the ball across the backline and it took a good defensive press from the home side thwarted the Carrick attack. The ball was recycled quickly and a penalty ensued with Enniskillen having been judged to have crept offside, the Carrick 10 signalled for the posts and 3 points followed for the visitors. From the restart the Skins chase was good and Gareth Beatty took the receiver to ground back on the opposition 22, and Carrick quickly looked to clear their lines, launching the ball towards Mark O'Shea, now playing at fullback for an injured Ashley Finlay, who countered back into the Carrick players weaving a good line but eventually getting caught. The ball was recycled well and moved from side to side of the pitch with some good support play on show from the home side. The next phase of play was to set the general theme of the day as Skins packed down to scrummage against Carrick. In an atypical Skins scrummaging display of late, Carrick were driven back ferociously on their own ball and Davy Taylor picked from the back to attack the Carrick line with an onslaught coming from the back line. A strong visiting defence repelled this and eventually Michael Law got stripped in midfield to give Carrick some much needed relief. The next 5 minutes of play was an entertaining period as both teams attacked each other with hard running lines throughout, strong defence from both teams kept the scoring opportunities down and focused play in midfield. Following a loose kick by Skins, Carrick regained possession and their out half slotted a nicely weighted kick just short of the Skins 22. A mistiming of the jump by Holden saw the ball quickly snatched by a Carrick forward as they drove towards the line only to be held up by the Skins back-row, the ball was duly sent back down the line by Maguire.
Play seemed to focus around the halfway line and towards the Skins 10’ for the next few minutes; a lovely steal by the forwards saw Maguire release O'Shea who in turn released James Ferguson, danced his way just into the Carrick half only to be taken down by a high tackle from the Carrick 12, resulting in a penalty which Maguire slotted over levelling the score 3-3.
Shortly after the restart some enterprising play from Skins ended with a scrum just inside the Carrick half and the dominance of the drive had Carrick giving away another penalty just inside their 10, Maguire duly obliged yet again leaving the score 6-3.
The Carrick 10 restarted the game and kicked the ball dead resulting in a most inconvenient scrum back on the halfway line. Skins relished this opportunity to again show their power and, following an initial drive, received another penalty just inside the half. Maguire stepped up and didn't flinch at this chance to keep the scoreboard ticking and slotted the ball again between the posts, increasing the score line to 9-3. Good interplay between both teams followed as the game moved towards the end of the first half and with a further Carrick infringement 3 metres inside their half, up stood Maguire again signalling for the touchline to get him his tee, with a kick that looked near impossible giving the conditions, but in his stride Maguire hit it low and hard and it sailed between the sticks increasing the score to 12-3. From the restart Skins fired deep back down into the Carrick half, and strong driving from the base of the ruck by Davy Taylor saw Skins advance towards the line, supported ably by Jamie Johnston. The home side were halted by yet another Carrick indiscretion giving Maguire another opportunity, accepting with open arms to push on 15-3. Carrick to their credit harboured no thoughts of lying down and came back up the pitch with vigour and, following a penalty for Skins holding on whilst tackled, the Carrick 10 struck the ball to bring them back to 15-6 as halftime was called.
The second half started in much the same way as it had played out in the first 40 minutes and it proved to be more of an arm wrestle than a spectacle; the scoreboard too was much less perturbed in the second half. Neither team yielded an inch in defence and continued to attack tenaciously. The dominant Skins scrum and line out was the major difference, not to mention the good work of Holden and Carleton to disrupt the Carrick line out in turn, significantly impacting their ability to retain possession. Points scoring chances were few in the second half and the Carrick out half missed another opportunity to pull Skins back in, and shortly afterwards for once, and ironically in his easiest kick of the day, Maguire’s opportunity to extend the lead, following some very clumsy rucking from the visitors, drifted wide. The defensive display from both sides tended to shut down any ambitious attacking play, and forced errors or penalties tended to creep in whenever the ball went wide. O’Shea made some ground on a few piercing runs but a swarm of Carrick defenders tended to overrun the back line throughout. As the game proceeded into the last 10 minutes, another Carrick breakdown infringement gave Maguire an opportunity to which he atoned for his previous miss and sent Skins forward with another penalty 18-6, confirming the result into the dying minutes for a decisive winning margin but an arduous battle nonetheless.
This was not a game for the rugby purists but Skins played an intelligent game of rugby by ensuring that the scoreboard kept ticking over. A mature display by Captain David Buchanan, ensured that the four points went Skins’ way. This was a much deserved win and the Skins supporters were more than happy with an ugly win accompanied by a fine display of kicking from John Maguire. This now leaves Enniskillen 1st XV top of the Kukri Ulster Championship Division 1 having played 6 games and won 5. t's a long way to go till the end of the season but this start has surely given all the players and coaches the confidence that they can compete within this league and continue to give a good account of themselves. The 1st XV now have an oddly long hiatus, with no game until they host Ballynahinch II in the conference on 19th November. The 3rd XV, however, now host Omagh 4XV this weekend at home in an always anticipated encounter, while the 4th XV travel away to Academy.