||19 - 22
Enniskillen 19 - Instonians 22
Enniskillen 1st XV continued their difficult September of league fixtures last Saturday as they hosted last year’s league winners Instonians. It was another bruising, hard fought contest with multiple swings in the scoreline that had the spectators in raptures. Another spirited performance was little consolation to a devastated Skins side as the visitors stole the win at the death through a snipe from recently retired Ulster stalwart Paul Marshall.
It was an impressive performance from the entire Skins line-up who were in the ascendency for most of the game, but soft penalties and the ability of the visitors to turn the smallest of opportunities into huge swings in territory and eventual points had the home side feeling bewildered by the scoreboard at full-time.
The forward pack had the upper hand in the narrow exchanges as youngsters Rutledge and Kelly battered the visiting defence and ball retention was excellent as the pack worked diligently at the breakdown. The line out functioned well for Skins while the visitors felt the pressure from Parke and Carleton, and also on a few occasions in an intense scrummaging contest through Warrington, Beatty and Ferguson.
In the backs Nick Finlay at out half controlled the game well and his decision making was key to Enniskillen’s performance. O’Shea at inside centre gave a man of the match performance at 12 with his physicality in both attack and defence, followed closely by Ferguson at 13 who was tenacious as ever. The back three did well to contain a pacy Instonians back line, particularly as an early injury to wing Jonny Magwood forced a reshuffle.
Skins took the kick off and worked their way down into the Inst half; a kick to touch and a resultant steal at the line out had them putting good pressure on the visitors. However, a knock on set up a scrum and the referee deemed Skins at fault for a collapse which gave the visitors an early escape. Instonians then worked their way down field and set up a series of charges close to the Enniskillen try line. The home side’s defence was resolute but the Instonians scrum half shifted a wide pass out over the top to the left wing who crossed unimpeded, unconverted to go 0-5 up.
A long kick from Finlay had Instonians pinned in their own half and struggling to exit as their set piece malfunctioned. A stolen line out gave Skins possession and Gavin Parke crossed the line but was unfortunately deemed to be held up, protests from Enniskillen had them penalised and granted the visitors another spell of relief.
Enniskillen were soon back in the Inst half and built a solid maul from a lineout 15 metres out, rumbling inches from the try line the maul was brought down illegally and the home side took the lead with a penalty try, and Instonians’ John Andress took 10 minutes in the sin bin, 7-5 up to Enniskillen.
Poor discipline meant Skins failed to capitalise on their advantage. Penalties had the home side back defending their own line yet again and surely tiring as they worked to defend carries coming thick and fast from a big visiting forward pack; eventually the opposition flanker managed to cross the line and Skins were trailing 7-10.
The second half looked positive for Enniskillen as they began to dominate the scrummaging encounters, and with the line out and maul looking unflappable they began to overwhelm the visitors. Two quick penalties had them mauling from the 5 metre line and Gavin Warrington crossed for a try, converted to go 12-10 up.
Another Instonians reprisal looked on the cards as they made some good ground from an intercept, stopped by an impressive chase back from Jarlath Maguire, but now attacking the Skins line and eventually scoring out wide after a few phases to regain the lead 12-15.
The Skins side regained their composure and the pack carried hard at the visitors, carries from Carleton and Kelly gaining good yards and Instonians looked to be tiring. The hard yards continued to be made through short range carries and Gary Thornton crossed for a try to bring Enniskillen 19-15 up moving into the final quarter.
Enniskillen looked in control but lost their discipline in the final stages. A late tackle gave the visitors an exit from where they were pinned in their own half off the restart. Instonians built the phases well in the dying minutes and desperate defence was asked of the home side, suffering a yellow card offence in the process. Skins were very close to holding out but, after a long period of defence on their own line against big ball carriers, it was opposition scrum half Paul Marshall who exploited a gap at the side of the ruck and scored at the posts, converted to end the game 19-22.
It was another frustrating day for Enniskillen who know they should have won this fixture with a couple of small tweaks in temperament. Positives were plentiful and the attitude continues to be rock solid from this side of players who will hopefully come out of this difficult few weeks of fixtures galvanised by the standard of these contests.