|Enniskillen 1st XV
||57 - 0
||Ards 1st XV
Town's Cup Round Two
Saturday saw Enniskillen advance into the quarter-finals of the Town's Cup after a resounding victory over Ards 2nd XV at Mullaghmeen. The sides would enjoy ideal conditions and from the start it was clear both teams were determined to progress in this competition.
Enniskilen lost influential prop Gareth Beatty in the first minute with a knee injury, who was replaced by hooker Ryan Cathcart. Stephen Welsh made the positional change to fill the tight head position. This swap didn't seem to phase Enniskillen who then stole the very first scrum of the game. The lineout too has been improving notably in recent weeks with Richard "Cedric" Grey controlling the set piece throughout the match. From one such line out Enniskillen gained their first points when a well constructed maul from a lineout marched it's way into the Ards "22" before being pulled to ground illegally. Chris Mcvitty slotted the kick for an early 3:0 lead.
After a short period of Ards possession, Donagh O'Callaghan collected a loose Ards kick on the right touchline before moving it through hands across the field to Zach Charlton who beat one would be tackler before drawing another and linking well with Nick Finlay who stepped wide on the left before slipping an offload inside to O'Callaghan who stepped two on his swerving run to the try line from 50 metres out to score under the posts. Mcvitty converted. 10:0.
Enniskillen continued to cause problems for the Ards lineout and scrambled the ball back for Jamie Johnston to collect and break the defensive line and carry close to the Ards try line. Only fierce Ards defence kept Johnston and Michael Cadden from increasing Enniskillen's lead, but this pressure eventually forced an infringement at the ruck. Johnston tapped and was unlucky to be held up, but the resulting 'skins scrum was irresistable and no.8 Ricky Lee duly scored the pushover try. Conversion missed. 15:0.
Ards squandered their best chance of points when after good carrying from the restart from David Buchanan and Jamie Johnston, Enniskillen were penalised for not releasing the ball in the ruck. The kick was scuffed wide and 'skins went unpunished.
Enniskillen continued to exert pressure on Ards in every facet of play and another line break from Johnston brought play back into the Ards "22". More bone crunching tackles were required to repel the attack, but ill discipline cost Ards another 3 points when the referee penalised the tackler for not releasing after the tackle was made. Ards might have considered themselves lucky to concede only 3 points here as 'skins failed to execute an overlap during the advantage from this penalty. Mcvitty slotted again to leave the score 18:0 before the half time whistle.
The second half started as the first had ended. More clean line out ball followed by Finlay carrying to the defensive line before offloading to forwards Johnston and Welsh who made the hard yards. Ards conceded another penalty for being offside and quick thinking Paddy McCleery tapped quickly to capitalise on Ards having not retreated 10 metres from the penalty mark. The extra 10 metres gained put Mcvitty in kicking range and he converted his attempt to extend the lead to 21:0.
Ryan Cathcart collected the restart and Mcvitty made a superb kick deep into the Ards half. The chase matched the quality of the kick and had Ards under all kinds of pressure. Their second row threw an uncertain pass in the direction of his out half to clear their lines, but more pressure pushed Ards back to their own try line before they breathed a sigh of relief as an Enniskillen hand knocked on when trying to steal the ball. This was short lived though as Enniskillen again dominated the scrum and were awarded the put in. Ards were again penalised for an offside infringement when Lee picked from the base. Captain Johnston elected, this time, to kick to touch and although the catch and drive took 'skins close, it was a smart reverse pass from McCleery to the charging Johnston who wrestled his way over the line. Conversion missed. 26:0.
Ards spent the next five minutes of the game in Enniskillen's half. Although Grey rose again to steal more line out ball, Enniskillen sloppily handed possession back to Ards who by now were desperate to get on the scoresheet. Ards, though, lacked any real invention with ball in hand and never realistically threatened the try line. Good tackling and ruck technique helped Enniskillen retrieve the ball and confident passing along the backline in their own "22" gave Mcvitty space to send a long ball into the opponents half. Though both teams made errors in the following minutes, it was Enniskillen who were gaining ground slowly.
Jack Harte replaced Michael “Fort Lodge" Cadden at openside flanker and made his presence known by carrying ball relentlessly at the Ards defence. Another penalty to Enniskillen was kicked to the corner and following a clean take, was carried with intent by Grey and Welsh. This time the Ards defence pressurised and won their side a scrum on their own 5 metre line, but Enniskillen's pack, spearheaded by the front row of Boatty, Cathcart and Welsh, forced the Ards pack backward and when the ball spilt out in the try area, McCleery was first to dive on it and get on the scoresheet. Conversion successful. 33:0.
Cathcart took ball confidently from the restart despite good Ards pressure and carried strongly before another penalty was awarded Enniskillen's way after another ruck infringement. Tidy lineout ball set up Harte and Welsh to break the gainline and subsequently gave Finlay space to attack a retreating defensive line. Donagh O'Callaghan ran a perfect dummy line which attracted the Ards winger for Finlay to feed the ball to David Buchanan who ran in from close quarters and set down a try untouched. Ards now demoralised and beaten, whilst Enniskillen were rampant and hungry for more. Mcvitty's conversion sailed through the uprights from the far right wing leaving the scoreline 40:0.
Things went from bad to worse for Ards when after conceding penalties for the entire duration of the game, the referee finally had enough and yellow carded the latest offender for yet another penalty at the ruck. The ball was kicked to touch for a lineout and then spread out to the backs for Nathan Richmond to showcase his strength and pace. Ricky Lee was also at hand to advance the ball straight up the pitch and after good strength from the forwards, it was Stevie Welsh who added his name to the list of try scorers. Mcvitty added the extras. 47:0.
Enniskillen were merciless in their pursuit of points and by this point, looked like scoring from almost anywhere. For the brief moments when Ards were in possession, Enniskillen were dogged to turn it over and succeded in doing so. Great counter rucking and a kick through into space saw Richard Grey in acres of space but unfortunately with the ball at his feet and the try line beckoning, he displayed some out of form footballing skills and the ball bobbled past the dead ball line. The Ards defence was at sixes and sevens trying to contain Enniskillen and after yet further pressure, skins' took another scrum against the head on the Ards 5 metre line. Lee passed to McCleery who fed Finlay and he trotted over the line for another to make it 52:0.
The last restart of the game failed the go the required 10 metres and Enniskillen broke right from the resultant scrum through the hands of Lee and McCleery. Harte carried next, but was not supported quickly enough by his team mates and a penalty was conceded for not releasing the ball. Ards had a chance to finish the game in Enniskillen's half, but the kick was fielded by O'Callaghan and Enniskillen made one last charge up the pitch for a final try. Sustained running by the forwards took 'skins to the half way line and when Cathcart broke left from a ruck, he evaded the first tackle and found himself in space. Running the perfect support line was Richard Grey who collected the well timed pass and with only the last defender to beat turned him inside out before speeding to the try line and rounding off the scoring 57:0.
Club coach, Norman Richmond, commented, "Overall I was extremely pleased with the performance on Saturday. It was hard to know what we were going to get from Ards on Saturday such is Towns Cup rugby and fair play to Ards they didn't stop for the 80 minutes. Still missing Ashley Finlay, Kaine Holden, James Ferguson and a not fully fit Jack Harte from the starting line up and then losing Gareth Beatty in the opening minutes of the game was slightly concerning but as such showed how much this team of players have developed over the season. Forwards and backs interacted well and everything came together on the day - it all clicked!”
The First XV play at home to Academy this weekend in what should be a challenging league fixture. The Third XV also had a resounding 31-5 win on Saturday at home against Clogher Valley in an effort to redeem their struggling league campaign.