|Enniskillen 1st XV
||0 - 24
||Portadown 1st XV
ENNISKILLLEN 1st XV 0 PORTADOWN 1st XV 24
The second half of what has been a very difficult season for Enniskillen kicked off at Mullaghmeen on Saturday. As a result of weather conditions it had been three weeks since Enniskillen’s last competitive fixture so this home tie against Portadown had been
eagerly anticipated. Skins had enjoyed a bonus point victory in the corresponding match at Chambers Park back in September so many felt Enniskillen entered the game as favourites.
However, the Portadown team sheet reflected the emphasis they had put on getting a result with the recall of several old hands to their starting line-up. As there were a mere five points separating the teams at the wrong end of the table, Saturday’s outcome was always going to be an eight point reward for the winners.
Skins kicked off to the visitors and from the start Portadown indicated their intent. Having dominated the opening exchanges the visitors drew first blood as early as the second minute when, after a series of well controlled phases, flashed the ball to the winger who had completely out flanked the Enniskillen cover to touch down unopposed in the corner.
Coming so early in the game this did not create a cause to panic among the home side. At this stage Enniskillen were securing primary possession with ease. They controlled the lineout with Parke, Donnelly and Holden to the fore. However their total dominance in the scrums was quickly negated by several poor refereeing decisions that allowed the visitors to illegally wheel the Skins constant drive with impunity.
The Portadown defence were resolute throughout. Any possession Enniskillen secured during the first period was needlessly squandered with a series of handling errors and constant offside play by the visiting cover that was allowed to go unchallenged by the referee.
This resulted in cheap turnovers and, from such mistakes, Portadown managed to set up attacks. They eventually managed to cross the home line twice during the remainder of the half, extending their advantage to nineteen points at the break.
Undeterred and still reasonably hopeful, Skins reorganised at the interval and started the second half with a new sense of urgency. They began to dominate territory, pinning Portadown back in their own 22’ for extended periods of the third quarter. However as hard as they tried they were constantly thwarted by a defensive line that seemed constantly offside, much to the irritation of the home crowd. Skins were penalised on several occasions close to the line, for reasons best known to the referee, and much to the relief of the Portadown defence.
Skins eventually managed to out manoeuvre the Portadown defence with a carefully
drilled kick in behind their defensive line that was quickly followed up by Skins winger James Ferguson who outpaced his opposite number to touch down for what appeared to be Enniskillen’s opening score of the afternoon. However the delight of the home support proved to be short lived when this perfectly taken try was disallowed, followed with a further blow as the protesting Enniskillen were shown a yellow card. This definitely was not to be Enniskillen’s day.
The remainder of the game was played out in the middle third of the field with neither side completely dominating proceedings. It looked as if neither side was going to score during the second period. However in injury time Portadown were awarded a penalty. They kicked to the corner and from the lineout there followed a period of sustained pressure by the visitors, who were eager to secure a fourth try and a bonus point win.
Skins managed to hold them out, but despite several breaks in play and subsequent opportunities to blow for full time, the referee decided to play an additional eight minutes of injury time, thus allowing Portadown to continue to exert pressure on the Enniskillen line which they eventually managed to breach.
Portadown thoroughly deserved their win. Their dogged determination in defence throughout ensured the home side were never really allowed to control the game for any meaningful period of time. Enniskillen certainly looked like a side that had not played together for several weeks. Unfortunately the afternoon will be remembered by much of the Enniskillen support for a poor refereeing performance, which had a huge influence on the game. The result now leaves both Enniskillen and Portadown tied close to the bottom of the Qualifying One League Table with fourteen league points apiece. Every league point for both sides from now to the end of the season will be crucial. Enniskillen entertain Carrickfergus at Mullaghmeen this Saturday, a game from which it is now imperative they must get a result to help climb out of the relegation zone.