|Rainey OB 3XV
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Rainey Old Boys III vs Enniskillen IV 31:17
The newly re-instated Enniskillen 4th XV made the trip to Magherafelt on Saturday to face a formidable prospect in Rainey OB 3rd XV. Since dropping a senior team in 2011, continued interest from existing members, a thirst for senior rugby from last year's u18s and several brand new faces taking up rugby for the first time well into their 20's have created sufficient demand to warrant a new senior team which opened their league campaign in the Regional West Ravenhill Plate.
Enniskillen started the game nervously and found themselves an unconverted try down within the opening minutes. From there, however, 'Skins regathered themselves and began to settle into the fixture. Debutant out half Darren Reynolds found his flow and distributed excellently to a dangerous Enniskillen backline. Jack Harte proved to be a constant threat to Rainey at inside centre, carrying aggressively and tackling ferociously throughout.
Enniskillen coped excellently at the scrum in the face of an obviously larger Rainey pack, particularly given Enniskillen's youthful front row. Though under pressure in the opening quarter, Jenkins, Fee and Duffy steadied the ship up front and began to match Rainey's power. Fee, in particular, a diminutive figure in the front row making his return from a broken wrist.
Excellent ball retention allowed Enniskillen to build phase after phase of probing attacks with Stephen Tummon carrying strongly and breaking through would be tackles. The back row trio of Ferghal Nolan, Christopher Fox and Olly Gamble ensured tidy, quick ruck ball for the ever dangerous Josh Kyle to sweep the ball away to determined forward runners. The fine weather conditions allowed Enniskillen to play a very attractive brand of rugby as their offloading of the ball from the tackle consistently impressed the travelling spectators. 'Skins inched closer to the Rainey try line with each attack, manipulating Rainey's defence to create space out wide for Ben Forbes to capitalise and breach the try line to equalise.
This first score boosted confidence within the travelling side and they went on the hunt for more points. Outside centre John McKenzie, returning to rugby after several years out of the game, looked like he'd never been away as he cut Rainey's defence in shreds time and time again. Winger Richard Henderson also looked threatening as he ran menacingly along the sideline, on one occasion coming just yards short of an individual wonder try, but Rainey's scrambling defence just managing to haul Henderson to ground after he had already dispensed of the first attempts to stop him.
Coa O'Dwyers stalwart, Luke McQuade displayed the first glimpse of his blistering pace in an Enniskillen jersey out wide taking play from halfway to inside Rainey's "22". Yet more stylish play kept the home team camped deep within their own half as Enniskillen assaulted the defensive line. Neat handling skills and offloading from Tummon and Nolan almost put tight head prop Oisin Duffy in the corner for a second try, but Rainey's last ditch defence once again denied 'Skins a five pointer.
Rainey eventually got a grip back on the game having battled to work their way out of their half. Old Boys' talented second row, Rory Flanigan controlled proceedings during line outs aptly, which was the platform for several of Rainey's more meaningful attacks. Despite bone crunching tackling from full back Lloyd Harte, another player returning after a lengthy lay off, Rainey's sustained forward attacks eventually paid dividends, taking Rainey back into the lead on the stroke of halftime 12:5.
After changing ends, Rainey began the second half with the same aggression as they finished the first. Enniskillen were now playing into a glaring sun and had to dig deep to force a knock on as a result of fearless tackling. John McKenzie switched to no.8 after Olly Gamble took a knock, but after making a promising start, drawing defenders and distributing the ball out of the tackle, he too was forced from the field having suffered a dislocated pinky finger. After demanding a stretcher and air ambulance to Royal Victoria Belfast, he had to settle for a spin to the minor injuries unit.
Shortly thereafter, Rainey's skilful out half profited from a gap in Enniskillen's defence, swerving and dodging defenders to set down under the posts to extend Rainey's lead.
Old Boys pressed on strongly but were met by a wall of Enniskillen defenders which forced the attack backwards on several occasions. Only shrewd kicking from Rainey kept them in the ascendency. Further inspirational defending from the influential Ferghal Nolan forced another turnover and after Josh Kyle released the ball to the backline, Luke McQuade found himself in possession and in space to once more demonstrate his natural ability in beating two defenders on his way to the white wash for a try in his very first game of rugby. Something none of us will ever hear the end of.
Enniskillen continued to apply pressure up front with Benjy Duffy, another debutant, hitting rucks with primal aggression. The tenacious and belligerent Benjy had Rainey players thinking twice about entering a ruck in fear for their health. Such aggressive play forced further errors from Rainey which were to prove costly as Enniskillen's ability to play a Barbarians style of rugby from turnovers eventually led to work horse Owen McGovern receiving just rewards by touching down to bring the inexperienced Enniskillen to within two points of favourites Rainey 19:17.
Unfortunately for Enniskillen, Rainey steadied themselves and began playing smarter rugby, kicking accurately into the right parts of the field and playing to their strengths. Rainey stretched their lead back to seven points when their full back broke the defensive line after running a perfect angle into space and Rainey were good for their victory when they bludgeoned the Enniskillen line a final time with multiple forward drives and pick & goes to finish the day as 31:17 victors.
In spite of the natural disappointment which follows a loss, 'Skins should be very proud of their performance against a senior club's 3rd XV who were ran much closer than they were comfortable with. Notable senior debuts across the team were David Jenkins, who refused to take a backwards step in the front row of the scrum as well as jumping in the lineout. Darren Reynolds, who stepped in as the fulcrum of the team with apparent ease and controlled his backline remarkably well. "The Enforcer", Benji Duffy, who was a constant thorn in Rainey's side and went about his job excellently well and the debutant try scorer, Luke "The Jew" McQuade, who personified speed and guile in scoring his first try without breaking sweat.
This 4th XV is very much focussed on developing emerging talent from players who are exiting the youth system and beginning to develop their game at an adult level. We are also extremely welcoming of potential players who have for one reason or another, fallen away from playing rugby in recent years and are looking for the perfect opportunity to return to the sport. Enniskillen RFC appeals to anyone of 18 years+ who might be interested in joining the club and playing for this newly re-instated team. No experience required and all skill levels welcomed to training at Enniskillen Rugby Football Club senior men's training on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7pm in Mullaghmeen. The 4th XV's next fixture will be this Saturday (2:30pm 13th Jan) vs Ballyshannon 1st XV at Enniskillen RFC. All supporters welcome.