|Enniskillen 1st XV
||34 - 8
||Randalstown 1st XV
Town's Cup 1st Round
On Saturday past Enniskillen First XV showed just how much they’ve progressed this season with a high scoring Towns Cup victory over Randalstown, who defeated them earlier in the season.
Despite a somewhat scrappy second half in which the visitors demonstrated how capable they could be with ball in hand, it was mostly a thoroughly dominant display from the home side, and tactically a step above the performance a few weeks ago which saw them lose to league rivals Omagh.
The game began as expected with both forward packs trading blows, and Enniskillen looking determined to lay a marker down against a side known for their physical forwards. Enniskillen looked to have the upper hand in the contact battle and gained good yards in close quarter carries through Jamie Johnston and David Buchanan. Ashley Finlay’s counter attack was threatening as always and gave the home side some valuable territory, with an eventual penalty allowing Nick Finlay to get three points on the board to take the lead.
The Enniskillen scrum, which has steamrolled it’s way through all opposition in recent months, was undoubtedly an area they thought to exploit in this fixture, and sure enough following a dominant drive deep in Randalstown’s half the Enniskillen forwards almost forced their way over the line themselves with Stevie Welsh coming close, but eventually winger Zach Charlton, who showed good awareness in spotting space down the blindside, crossed the line for the first try of the game.
Randalstown reacted well to the score and managed to pin Enniskillen back in their own half, the defence was good from the home side with tenacious tackling from Jack Harte, but an eventual penalty allowed the visitors to come away with three points to keep the contest very much alive. The remainder of the first half was tactically excellent from Enniskillen to leave the visitors desperately adrift.
Nick Finlay kept Enniskillen in opposition territory with an adept kicking game, and with the line-out functioning well through Kaine Holden and Cathal McGarry, and the scrum supremely dominant, it was inevitable that the home side would start to rack up points. After some good gains from the hard running Enniskillen back line and an unfortunate handling error, the Randalstown scrum was placed under severe pressure on their 5-Metre line against the Fox, Welsh and Beatty front row, and with the ball stolen against the head Jamie Johnston powered his way over the try line, with Nick Finlay adding the conversion. Soon afterwards another huge scrum in midfield put Randalstown on the back foot yet again, and despite some last ditch defence from Randalstown a resulting attacking scrum for Enniskillen on the 5-Metre line gave Johnston his second try of the day to end the half at 22-3.
Enniskillen continued their dominance early in the second half with the forwards and backs combining well, Alan Wilkinson and Nathan Richmond running strong lines in the centres and using their forward options well. The home side found themselves deep in Randalstown’s half following good attacking phases, and after the referee awarded a penalty Nick Finlay reacted well with a quick tap and crossed the line for the fourth try, then converting to leave a fairly steep 29-3 scoreline.
Enniskillen had a fairly lacklustre period later in the second half when their attacking phases were much less fluid and their clearly dominant scrum was littered with penalties being awarded in the opposition’s favour. Randalstown in contrast looked much improved in the second half and exhibited some excellent attacking play in which their mobile forwards interlinked excellently with the back line, and complimented an impressive performance from their 12. Randalstown did manage a score in the second half through an overlap, which Enniskillen were perhaps slightly slow to react to, following fluid hands through the back line their right winger took his try well and evaded oncoming tackles to score in the corner.
The second half continued to lack structure from both sides but Enniskillen made sure to galvanise the score line in the last 5 minutes. After good pressure from the visitors in the Enniskillen half, a loose ball at the scrum was kicked deep into the Randalstown half by Jack Harte, then a determined chase from Donagh O’Callaghan allowed him to gather the ball and get the pass away to Jamie Johnston for his third try of the day, leaving the final score 34-8.
Coach Norman Richmond was clearly pleased with the performance off the back of some difficult results.
"I was very pleased with our performance on Saturday. We played intelligent rugby and kept Randalstown pinned back. Our forwards dominated up front securing good ball and good field kicking from Nicky Finlay rewarded a hard working pack with good field position. There was good movement of the ball and we were able to punish Randalstown and not let them play. It's always good to get through the first round of what is a tough competition within Ulster rugby, what or who comes next we will just have to wait and see, but I believe this team can give a good account of themselves.”
Enniskillen now return to league fixtures and play away to Academy this weekend in an effort to improve their league standing in the wake of an excellent cup result.