||6 - 0
Having narrowly beaten Clogher Valley the weekend before, Coleraine travelled to Enniskillen with their Qualifying 1 status confirmed for the next season. The home side were not in as safe a position. A loss would mean a play off game against the runner up of Qualifying 2, and a victory ensured they would be in the top tier of Junior Rugby for the 18/19 season.
With this in mind, the home side took the field knowing the objective was to win, whatever the cost. This cost came 10 minutes after kick-off, when Enniskillen’s captain, and industrious workhorse, Ryan Cathcart, was escorted from the pitch after a nasty blow to the eye. Thankfully for Ryan there is no lasting damage, but Enniskillen had to play the rest of the match without their skipper.
Although Coleraine were mathematically safe, and didn’t have anything to play for, it became a cagey affair, with both sides showing how solid their defences were. After the early exchanges, however, it was Coleraine who started to apply the pressure, twice crossing the Enniskillen line. The referee deemed these to be held up and crossing respectively to the home side’s relief.
During a rare foray into the Coleraine half, Enniskillen were awarded a penalty, which Lendrum converted to bring the score to 3-0. The first half continued largely unchanged, with Coleraine dominating possession and territory, but unable to break the home side down, thanks in no small part to the defensive work of James Ferguson in the wide channels.
After half time it was Enniskillen who started to control possession and territory, with Matthew Dane marshalling the pack, and Lendrum distributing to his dangerous backs when opportunities presented themselves. It was, however, Coleraine’s turn to show how steely their defence could be, as the home side were unable to break them down.
Eventually Coleraine cracked and conceded a kickable penalty, which Lendrum pushed to the right. When they conceded another shortly after, Lendrum wasn’t going to make the same mistake and converted the chance to double Enniskillen’s score to 6-0.
Enniskillen saw the game out defending uncomfortably close to their own line, but despite the tiring effects of defending, one final surge pushed Coleraine back to their own half and forced them to attempt an audacious cross-field kick. Their winger was met by a thunderous tackle from Matthew Dane, who pushed him out to trigger the final whistle and scenes of relief for players, and coaches; Willie Gibson and Stephen Welsh.
It has been a difficult season for Enniskillen who struggled to find form in a competitive league that punishes slack performances harshly. They have, however, showed their grit and character, pulling off a miraculous victory in Ballyclare and now an impressive defensive endeavour at home to achieve security and build for better days. Captain Ryan Cathcart commented on his relief following the result.
“I’m extremely proud of the lads for grinding out that win and how everyone’s persevered through some demoralising results this season and fought to stay in Junior 1. Just surviving isn’t always that enjoyable but it buys us time to build for next season and hopefully future success. Myself and the players would like to thank Willie Gibson, an excellent coach who has developed us all as players over the last few years, and assistant coach Stevie Welsh who was a key presence on and off the pitch.”