||19 - 19
Carrickfergus 1XV 19
Enniskillen 1XV 19
Enniskillen gained some valuable league points last weekend as they ground out a draw away in Carrickfergus, a venue that has yielded little in the way of positive results in recent years for this Skins side, after a sluggish start saw them fighting back from 19-0 down.
Carrick had the lion’s share of possession from the outset and Skins were forced immediately into long periods of defence. The Enniskillen tackling display was fierce enough but they were slow to organise their line and the Carrick side took full advantage. The home side’s first score came following an attacking scrum on the 5 metre line, a resultant back line move broke the line and crossed for a try, conversion successful to go 7-0 up.
The battle continued in the middle of the pitch and some good footwork from fullback Patrick McCleery brought play into the Carrick half before a wayward offload was gathered by the home side attack, who ran in a score against the run of play as they fought off scrambling Enniskillen defenders, conversion missed to take a 12-0 lead.
Carrick again ended up deep in the Enniskillen half after some good backline play and Skins left numbers short on the blind side of the ruck about 5 metres out from the try line, which Carrick easily exploited with good hands through a 4 on 1 overlap, now leading 19-0 after the conversion.
Despite some good phases of attack from Enniskillen and a determined display of tackling, the signs were ominous now as the visitors sat 3 tries down after 25 minutes. To the contrary, Enniskillen showed excellent patience in attack and continued to build pressure. Their set-piece now looked unflappable; a strong scrummaging performance from Warrington and Ferguson, bolstered by Richie Beatty, gave the home side little reprieve. Additionally, after a couple of shaky openers, the lineout looked superb with Carleton and Parke in the air working off Cathcart’s throw.
Skins rallied now before halftime and worked their way into the Carrick half through some forceful forward carries and Carrick began to give away penalties under pressure. Skins backed their set piece and set up a 5 metre scrum crawling towards the try line, then off the back after several carries, Jamie Kelly crossed for the first try, conversion missed to reduce the deficit to 19-5 going into half time.
In the second half Skins continued their well worked attack and impressive ball retention to pressure the home side. Penalties continued to come Skins’ way and Lendrum’s boot brought them back within range of the Carrick try line. A maul off the line out made good yards but then broke down into short range carries which eventually had Gavin Warrington forcing his way over, Lendrum’s conversion bringing Skins somewhat incredibly back within a single score at 19-12.
Carrick, seemingly realising the battle they were now in, put some determined defence in for the next 10 minutes and the game was a stalemate. The physical contest took it’s toll as Skins lost Lendrum at out half and Dane at scrum half in fairly quick succession. Skins were more accurate at the breakdown than their opposition and again penalties gave them the territory they needed. Soon back on the Carrick 5 metre line for a scrum once again a dominant shove looked set to result in a penalty try as the Carrick front row popped up under pressure, but Jack Rutledge took the matter out of the ref’s hands as he picked and crossed for their third try, slotted by makeshift out half Patrick McCleery to bring things even at 19-19 with 10 minutes to go.
It was a nervy final 10 minutes as Skins were now playing with reduced numbers due to injuries and weathering a desperate Carrick attack. The final line out of the game was calmly taken by Enniskillen and cleared to end proceedings.
While the fightback was impressive, Skins will obviously look to correct their slow start in the contest. However, the forgettable first 25 minutes was outshone by some spectacular performances in the rest of the fixture. Second rows James Carleton and David Buchanan were everywhere in defence while centre pairing Mark O’Shea and James Ferguson marshalled the backline expertly. Reece Barrett and Richie Beatty off the bench both made a massive contribution in a contest of the narrowest margins while debutant wing Phil Dickie was solid under the high ball.
Skins now travel to Dromore this weekend in the first round of the Junior Cup.