|Newry Ladies 1st XV
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||Enniskillen Ladies 1st XV
It was the last match of the regular league for E.R.F.C's ladies team and once again it was a resounding win on the road, away to a tigerish Newry side. Conditions were less than ideal with a piercing wind blowing amongst nearly sub-zero temperatures, and not only rain but sleet, hampering both sides. Enniskillen were in search of a bonus point victory (scoring four tries or more) and hoping Carrickfergus could do them a favour against Cavan in the other 2:00 p.m. Sunday kick off, if both were to happen then the league title would be theirs.
On such a day one would expect a tight game up front with the forwards coming to the fore but the backs also excelled in the bad weather with some excellent handling to boot. Enniskillen were to hit the ground running with a score from the opening phase of play after a good move through the backs, Clare McMorrow the benefactor scoring under the posts allowing Shauna Murphy the easiest of conversions. 15 minutes later Murphy sent a searching kick over the head of the onrushing Newry defence and a great chase from Alana McCaffery saw the Newry full back give away a scrum 5 meters from her own try line. Enniskillen won the ball and Captain Leona Hallett picked up from the base and ran in another touchdown under the posts, duly converted by Murphy. Enniskillen were pressing hard, looking for those extra two tries to get them the points they so desperately needed. Their hard work typified by a heroic piece of work from front row Sarah Evans who dived on a loose ball, putting her head where most men wouldn't put their bodies, winning possesion back for her side (and taking a kick to the noggin for her troubles!). The ball was recycled and Murphy went in under the sticks, later converting her own score.
The conditions did not improve during the second half and this led to a few handling errors from both sides. Newry seemed reinvigorated and were attacking with some menace after the restart but Enniskillens defence was holding firm. The Skins were creating opportunities for themselves at the other end but the home side were dogged and making plenty of tackles. Frustration was evident on the faces of the Enniskillen players but patience is key in situations like this and that's exactly what led to their 4th, and bonus point winning, try. The forwards were burrowing hard up front, 22 meters out from the try-line, and sucking in the Newry defence bit by bit. The backs called for the ball and a sweeping move found Collette McMorrow on the wing to touch down in the corner. Relief was in the air, the girls had done all they could today, but there the was still a match to finish. The rest of the game was largely uneventful with Newry and Enniskillen exchanging a few yards in the middle of the park until a moment of brilliance from Noreen Nethercott delivered what must surely be the individual try of the season. She received the ball from Murphy on the half-way line before jinking in and out of 3 Newry players. Nethercott then lined up the full-back, hit low with her right shoulder and pirouetted around the helpless Newry player before handing off a desperate last ditch challenge to run the ball in under the posts from 30 yards, a fantastic piece of individual brilliance. Murphy converted and the match ended shortly after.
The girls had done all they could but it was unfortunately in vein as Cavan ran out victors in their game and won the league by a couple of points. I'm sure the girls will take heart from a number of fantastic team performances and indeed the hard work and adaptability of some new faces who hadn't even played rugby before this year! The girls would like to thank their coach and manager Robbie Watson for his hard work during the season and indeed their team sponsor Blakes Of The Hollow. I would also like to pass on my congratulations to the girls who worked tirelessly throughout the year, and although they may have missed out on the big prize this Year they have certainly set the foundation for many more successful years in front of them.