||15 - 11
Enniskillen 1st XV 15
Cooke 1st XV 11
Enniskillen 1st XV ground out a league win last weekend at home over Cooke RFC, coming back from a dreadful first half hour to battle for a 15-11 victory. It was a valued win for Skins given the poor start and with the Belfast side having caused difficulties for Skins in the past, being one of the few sides to win at Mullaghmeen last season.
Skins were sluggish in the early stages, starting in their own half facing a strong oncoming wind and one bout of heavy hail. The defence was lacklustre and Cooke made inroads into the Enniskillen half all too easily. Then frustration seemed to kick in and Skins started to concede penalties for high tackles and creeping offside at the ruck, leaving them further pinned back in their own half, Cooke converting these opportunities well with an early penalty sailing through the posts to take a 3-0 lead.
Handing all the territory to Cooke in these conditions proved to be costly as shortly afterwards the opposition centre broke the line on the 22’ and offloaded to the out half who crossed for a try, unconverted to go 8-0 up with the Skins support looking uncomfortable. Another penalty at the break down allowed Cooke to extend their lead and they pushed ahead 11-0.
Finally some possession came the home side’s way towards the end of the first half and a supremely dominant scrum through front rowers McKane, Ferguson, Fox and Cathcart helped Skins to settle their heads after a frantic half hour. Taking two opposition feeds against the head Skins worked their way deep into the Cooke half and wore the defence down with some short range carries before another rampant scrum allowed Kaine Holden to cross the line, putting Skins on the scoreboard trailing 5-11 into the end of the half.
Skins carried their improved attitude into the second half and made life difficult for the visitors. The Skins line out functioned well through Grayson Donnelly and Gavin Parke while they tormented the Cooke throw and starved the visitors of possession.
The scrum continued to cause problems for Cooke, camped on their own 5 metre line for an extended period with repeated penalties and the possibility of a card or a penalty try surely looming, before eventually Holden took matters out of the referee’s hands and powered over the line from the back of the scrum for his second try, unconverted to bring the scoreline to 10-11.
Cooke tried to set up in the Skins half from the restart but the home side was determined now and, after a Cooke penalty at the breakdown, Adam Lendrum pinned the visitors back into their own half with a huge kick to touch. The maul broke down into repeated short range carries and an error out wide resulted in another scrummaging bout. With another steal against the head Holden took the ball at the back of the scrum 10 metres out and fed James Ferguson on the wing who sprinted in for a try to take the lead, 15-11.
The final 15 minutes was a tense affair for Enniskillen as Cooke tried to reestablish the lead and worked their way inside the Skins 22’. A huge defensive effort came from all involved, back rowers Gareth McCoy, Alex Gormley and Jamie Johnston putting in an incredibly physical display to keep the attackers out metres from the line while centre partnership Mark O’Shea and Michael Law did well to suppress a pacy Cooke back line. Another penalty at the scrum in the last play of the game put the contest to bed as Lendrum kicked it out for the final whistle.
It was a rusty start from Enniskillen and more clinical 80 minute performances will be needed to continue to rise through the ranks in this very competitive league. That being said, it was a good result against a strong side and impressive perseverance after giving themselves a mountain to climb following 30 lacklustre minutes. This weekend will be a memorable one for Enniskillen as they play their first ever All Ireland Junior Cup game, a quarter final against Limerick side Newcastle West.