||13 - 28
||Newcastle West 1XV
Enniskillen 1st XV 13
Newcastle West 1st XV 28
Enniskillen 1st XV suffered defeat at the hands of visiting Limerick side Newcastle West last weekend in their All Ireland Cup Quarter Final. Their first ever game in this tournament had Skins facing a powerful Newcastle side who had already seen off the previous year’s finalists Enniscorthy. They started the game at a rapid pace, with Enniskillen playing catchup yet again, then settling into the fixture and showing some remarkable perseverance to come back into the game.
Newcastle West moved the ball well from the kick off and their back line proved to be quick and hard running, finding holes in the Skins defence and gaining good yards. The visitors’ line out was also solid and gave them a good base to attack from, keeping Skins pinned in their half. Frustration under pressure led to an early penalty and Newcastle took the lead 0-3.
Newcastle continued to dominate territory and work their way inside the Enniskillen 22’. A solid Skins scrum kept them at bay for a while and good work at the line out from Richie Beatty neutralised attempts from the visitors to set up the maul. Eventually, however, the Newcastle second row crossed for an early score following a rampant maul from 10 metres out, unconverted at 0-8.
Skins made some ground into the opposition half now and the forwards put some devastating carries together through the back row of Holden, Johnston and Gormley to get a foothold in the game, forcing a penalty from the visitors and Lendrum putting the first points on the board to trail 3-8.
Newcastle responded aggressively from the restart and again pinned Enniskillen in their own half and the home side struggled to clear their lines despite repeated attempts at an exit. Soon a break in midfield yielded a try for the Newcastle backs, converted to go 3-15 up shortly before half time.
The second half started much more positively for Skins. The back line found some space out wide to bring play into the Newcastle half and the pack continued to find yards through short range pick and go’s, Grayson Donnelly and Gavin Parke in the second row putting in an industrious shift. Opting for the scrum off a penalty, a big drive was followed by repeated pick and go’s before simple hands through the backs found James Ferguson on the right wing who crossed in the corner, unconverted bringing the score to 8-15.
Skins defence was much improved and Ricky Lee off the bench made some massive hits to restrain the big Limerick pack. Newcastle were clinical, however, continuing to play at a rapid pace and, despite their best efforts, Skins struggled to reorganise the defensive line to deal with visitors. Repeated penalties came from Skins now and Newcastle extended their lead to 8-18.
Pinned in their half once again from the restart it wasn’t long before Newcastle again crossed the line and went 8-25 up. The home side refused to lie down and responded well from the restart, playing some of their best rugby as the forwards and backs linked well together to gain ground. Nick Finlay put a lot of energy into the performance off the bench at out half as did Jamie Kelly in the forwards. After some concentrated carries approaching the Newcastle try line Gavin Parke crossed for a score to go to 13-25.
From the restart another penalty came Newcastle’s way and the side slotted the attempt once again to go 13-28 for full time, a harsh result for an entertaining contest.
Skins captain Ryan Cathcart commented on the disappointing result but overall positive elements of the defeat.
“The instant reaction from all of the lads was disappointment, i think we all felt if we cut out a lot of errors we actually had the beating of that side, but they were so clinical and that made the difference overall. But, looking at the game in hindsight you see the positives and it was a great performance against an excellent side. Our main goal was upping our physicality and bringing some desire back into our game from previous weeks and we did that in excess, the forwards actually dominated the big Newcastle pack for much of the game and the backs constantly shut down a very quick back line who had a lot of possession.”
The battles continue as Skins host table toppers Ballyclare this Saturday, a tough fixture, but one that can certainly be targeted given the grit shown against certainly one of Ireland’s best junior rugby sides last weekend.