||14 - 8
Enniskillen 1st XV 14
Carrickfergus 1st XV 8
Enniskillen 1st XV managed a long awaited performance last weekend at Mullaghmeen, grinding out a 14-8 victory in their first Junior Cup fixture against a Carrickfergus side who put 30 points on Skins only 2 weeks ago. It was an expectedly physical encounter against a big Carrick pack, but the desire of the home side was leaps beyond that shown in previous weeks.
Right from the outset Skins looked a more competent side. Carrick looked to implement their usual rampaging phases of forward runners but a better organised and more determined defensive line had the visitors often backtracking. The impact of some big hits from the returning Gareth McCoy and incoming New Zealander Grayson Donnelly made life difficult for the Carrick attack, as when attempting to go wide the centre partnership of Law and Ferguson marshalled things well, until an early injury to Ferguson forced Gavin Parke to filter into the back line where he performed well.
There was an extended period of close quarters carrying in midfield but a Tyler Millar break after receiving a kick inside the Skins 22’ put the home side deep in the Carrick half, under pressure Carrick eventually gave away a penalty at the breakdown and McVitty duly converted to put Skins 3-0 up. Carrick responded well from the restart and equalised shortly afterwards when Skins gave away a penalty at the ruck well inside their own half.
Skins pinned Carrick back from the restart and forced handling errors from the visitors. Holden, Taylor and youngster Jamie Kelly in the forwards made good yards carrying ball and good hands through the back line found Matty Balmer on the wing who sliced through 3 or 4 Carrick defenders for a well taken try, unconverted leaving Enniskillen leading 8-3 at half time.
Carrick to their credit refused to lie down and continued to push confidently for the win in the second half but the Skins defence seemed back to it’s former level. Some long, probing kicks from Carrick were well dealt with by O’Shea at full back and the Skins counter attack looked dangerous. Carrick were clumsy at times now under pressure and gave away consecutive penalties, Skins failed to claim a try from this pressure as their line out malfunctioned at times but they came away with 3 points from a McVitty penalty to go 14-3 up.
Carrick made inroads into the Skins half from the restart and asked a big defensive effort from the home side. Initially a drive from the Carrick forwards was held up just over the Skins line. A yellow card for McVitty left Skins a man down and eventually Carrick used an overlap out wide to cross in the corner, unconverted to leave Carrick trailing a mere 14-8 for a tense final 10 minutes. Players and supporters alike were counting the minutes but a tiring Skins dug deep and held out until the final whistle to much relief.
This victory sees Skins into the quarter final of the Junior Cup but more importantly it was an exceptionally improved performance that will give the side renewed confidence going into an important league game against Dromore at Mullaghmeen this Saturday. There’s still much to improve on in certain aspects of the game for the Skins side but crucially the attitude was on point and the potential in the side was evident.