|Instonians 1st XV
||40 - 7
||Enniskillen 1st XV
Enniskillen First XV’s spectacular run ended on Saturday with defeat in the semi-final of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup in what was billed as a David and Goliath encounter away against ex-AIL and current Qualifying One league leaders Instonians. Despite the floodgates opening a little in the latter stages of the game to leave the final scoreline less than flattering to the Enniskillen side, there was still plenty of pride in the performance and numerous positives to take from the game.
Enniskillen started the game showing ferocious intent with a determined chase from Kaine Holden at the restart putting instant pressure on the home side, and huge hits in defence from Danny Maguire and David Buchanan showing just how up for this game the Enniskillen side were. An unfortunate penalty at the breakdown gave the Inst out-half a kick to touch and some valuable territory as they began to apply early pressure on the visitors. The Enniskillen defensive effort was solid, but an eventual penalty inside the 22 metre line gave Instonians three points to take the lead.
Enniskillen looked dangerous in attack after the restart and a linebreak from Nick Finlay had Skins threatening the Instonians try line early on with more than one of the pack, as well as Ashley Finlay, almost crossing the line, but there was a big defensive effort from the home side resulting in an eventual turnover. Skins still continued to match the physicality of the opposition and the tackling was good across the board, with Alan Wilkinson putting in a great cover tackle following an Instonians linebreak.
The opposing out-half continued to put Enniskillen under enormous pressure with accurate tactical kicking continuing to keep Instonians in the opposition half, a resulting Scrum within the 22 metre looked to be a tight contest but Skins were once again penalised and a further three points for the home side were taken easily.
Ashley Finlay covered well at full back following some testing kicks from Instonians, then with good Enniskillen defence forcing a knock-on, the in form Enniskillen scrum began to settle into the game with the front row of Richard and Gareth Beatty, and Stevie Welsh dominating the contest.
The Inst line out was excellent throughout and required some impressive maul defence from Enniskillen, and the forwards delivered, forcing a knock on from Instonians and the resulting destructive scrum from Enniskillen was awarded with a penalty. Opting for the kick to touch Enniskillen then failed to get their line out functioning and Instonians regained possession, unfortunately there were a few opportunities missed for Enniskillen on the day due to Instonians’ superior lineout.
The Enniskillen scrum however continued to dominate and following an excellent kick to touch from Nick Finlay in open play, and an ensuing crooked throw from Instonians, Enniskillen had the put-in deep in the opposition half. The Skins scrum dominated the encounter and were awarded two penalties before the referee had enough and sin binned the Inst loose head prop. Enniskillen continued to exploit the scrum and an eventual pick and go from number eight Jamie Johnston was apparently touched down under the posts, but was unfortunately deemed a knock on and this once again relieved the pressure on the home side. Enniskillen continued to attack well and looked determined to get points on the board before half time, and did have a chance for three points but the attempt unfortunately drifted wide, leaving the score 6-0 at the half in a very tight contest.
The real turning point in the game came from the Instonians restart in the second half which was taken excellently by the home side’s winger, then following a clever kick and awkward bounce near the Enniskillen try line Instonians came away with the ball and shifted it wide for a score in the corner.
The combination of the opposition out-half’s kicking and the clinical line out gave the home side the lion’s share of possession and not long after the try Enniskillen were penalised while defending the Instonians maul which gave the home side a further three points. It was more of the same for the next two scores with Enniskillen being penalised and accurate kicks to touch resulting in line outs on the 5 metre line, and Instonians proving too difficult to stop from short range.
The defensive effort remained industrious from Enniskillen with good tackling from Gareth Beatty and pressure from scrum-half Paddy McCleery on his opposite number keeping Instonians at bay. There were plenty of glimmers of hope in attack also with young Conor Hoy and Nathan Richmond looking dangerous and Ashley Finlay almost making a clean break through the Instonians defence, Zach Charlton also was looking sharp under some well placed kicks from Nick Finlay.
Skins were putting all the pressure on at one stage deep in the Instonians half with good ball carrying from David Taylor and Richard Grey following a stolen put-in at the Scrum, only for an unfortunate intercept pass to provide the home side with a soft try against the run of play. To Enniskillen’s credit they started where they left off and remained intent on getting a score, more penalties at the scrum gave Enniskillen the necessary territory and another devastating scrum on the Instonians 5-metre line followed by a number of pick and go’s ended with Jamie Johnston crossing the line for a well deserved try. Inst scored one more try before the final whistle through the same channels of close quarters carrying from a line out deep in the Enniskillen half to leave the final score 40-7.
Coach Norman Richmond was disappointed by the harsh score line but remained proud of his team’s display.
"I thought the team played well and displayed some good quality rugby. Our pack dominated the scrum and the score line flattered Instonians to a degree. Yes they are a good team and quite rightly sit at the top of Qualifying One, they displayed a clinical style of rugby that will punish any minor errors teams may make. Within Cup games you need a little luck, at half time we could have been 13-6 up with 2 kickable penalties and a try disallowed under the posts, but we just didn't get the rub of the green. From a poor restart at the begining of the second half Instonians scored and got their tails up and we just couldn't get back at them."
Despite enjoying the cup run Richmond was sure to emphasise that the team’s focus is their league standing and that will be their priority after a well earned Saturday off this weekend, followed by Lisburn on the 13th.
"We now start to refocus on the league with Lisburn and Omagh this side of Christmas and must aim to get ourselves back into contention within the top tier of the league as we have 2 games in hand to those above us. This team is good and have all the qualities to be able to compete in the next league up, they continue to mature and develop each week and will be a force to be reckoned with.”