|Enniskillen 1st XV
||10 - 27
||Ballyclare 1st XV
Enniskillen 1st XV 8
Ballyclare 1st XV 27
Enniskillen welcomed a table topping Ballyclare to Mullaghmeen on Saturday afternoon. Fresh from Enniskillen's hard fought, yet ultimately unsuccessful encounter against Newcastle West in the All Ireland Junior Cup quarter-final one week ago, Willy Gibson's men were keen to return to winning ways. From the outset of the game, however, Ballyclare appeared equally determined to cement their place atop Q1. Within the opening minutes of the game, Ballyclare showed their strength up front with a larger pack and their skill in the back line with some penetrating attacks. One such attack forced a Ballyclare penalty, which was converted to open the scoring in Ballyclare's favour.
Enniskillen had to deal with a further series of attacks and despite some excellent tackles from captain Ryan Cathcart amongst many others, Enniskillen's defence cracked and Ballyclare were first to touchdown for a five pointer.
Ballyclare continued to demonstrate their strength at the scrum, something which Enniskillen had difficulty dealing with. This area of superiority was to be one of the deciding factors of the afternoon.
Enniskillen withstood further pressure and managed to fight back up into Ballyclare's 22’. A fine kick to touch resulted in a line out 5 metres out from Ballyclare's try line. Ballyclare's throw was beautifully intercepted by the outstretched hand of Grayson Donnelly which gave Enniskillen much needed time on the ball in a dangerous area of the pitch. Unfortunately, Enniskillen were unable to capitalise from the opportunity and a handling error let the attack down and Ballyclare were once again able to clear their lines before structuring a razor shape attack and scoring in the corner to round off the 1st half scoring 0:13 in their favour.
Enniskillen began the 2nd half the hungrier of the two sides and opened their account in the form on a Chris McVitty penalty.
In what could have been the beginnings of an Enniskillen comeback, Ballyclare wrestled their way back into control of the game by way of an excellent scrummaging platform and very able backline. Ballyclare were capable of moving the ball around accurately right on Enniskillen's defensive line, thus successfully moving the point of their attack and proving a real handful for Enniskillen's defensive effort.
Enniskillen fell foul of a penalty at the front row of the scrum and the referee deemed it to be a yellow card offence, reducing 'Skins to 14.
'Clare continued to pressurise 14 man Enniskillen to breaking point. The dangerous combination of a composed and heavy pack along with a probing, threatening backline eventually paid dividends and Ballyclare succeeded in scoring their 3rd and 4th tries by way of relentless attacking pressure. Ballyclare stretched their lead to 3:20 after a slick backline move and further again to 3:27 from an unstoppable catch and drive from a line out.
Enniskillen were facing a near impossible task with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, and yet, made a very concerted effort against the odds. James Ferguson was Enniskillen's answer to 'Clare's dangerous backs and broke their line finding himself in some space. Ferguson made a difficult pass to set Irish sevens’ winger Robert Baloucoune away in the corner, but the referee, despite being somewhat behind play, adjudged the pass to have been forward. The home supporters immediately made their opinions very clear to the referee.
In the final minutes, Enniskillen's perseverance warranted a try and it came through another James Ferguson break. He fed Baloucoune who kicked forward twice under pressure from scrambling Ballyclare defenders and cooly regathered the bouncing ball and set down for Enniskillen's solitary try of the day.
Enniskillen will lick their wounds having been defeated by a strong Ballyclare outfit and have the benefit of a weekend off before travelling to Coleraine on December 2nd.