Omagh 1st XV v Enniskillen 1st XV Fixture - Feb 7, 2015

Team Score Pts
Omagh 1st XV 25 - 6 Enniskillen 1st XV

Match Report

On Saturday last Enniskillen travelled to Mellon Park Omagh for this eagerly anticipated Qualifying League encounter, anxious to build on their improved performance record of the previous four outings.  Although the season’s toll of injuries reflected on the two team selections, both clubs were anxious to demonstrate how the strengths of their respective squads could now deal with these inevitable circumstances that arise during the course of a rugby season. Enniskillen fielded with three changes in the starting line-up from the team that had beaten Academy the previous week. Ashley Finley returned to the full back position, and Nick Finlay slotted into the centre to partner Alan Wilkinson in place of Nathan Richmond, who was unavailable.  Mark Hood made his first start for Skins in the front row, with Ryan Cathcart and Richard Beatty, and Kyle Johnston switched from the wing to scrum-half duties.

Enniskillen were anxious to overturn the result of the corresponding fixture at Mullaghmeen just before the Christmas break, a game that they had dominated for long periods but managed to let slip in the final quarter.

The game was played in near perfect conditions with Omagh, having won the toss, opting to kick-off to the visitors. Enniskillen displayed immediate intent, controlling possession for the opening period, playing the game in the opposition half. Omagh’s defence was resolute in their determination to thwart any attempts to cross their line. After six minutes they did eventually concede a penalty for an off-side infringement after David Buchanan, who had gathered possession from a line-out, drove deep into their half.

Chris McVitty duly obliged with the resulting kick to register the opening score of the afternoon. 

Shortly after the re-start Enniskillen did manage to out-flank the Omagh defence, but were unable to finish the move with the line at their mercy.  This narrow escape seemed to spur on the home side, who had taken a little longer to settle into the game.  

The level of intensity at the breakdown reflected the commitment and desire to control proceedings by both teams, and in an effort to stamp his authority at an early stage of the game the referee yellow carded Enniskillen’s Jack Harte, who was followed shortly after to the bin by Omagh’s Paul Todd.

At this stage in the game the Omagh forwards were beginning to dominate the opposition eight, at both scrums and line-outs.  They consistently managed to disrupt the Enniskillen line-out by putting their jumpers into the air prior to the ball been thrown in, an infringement not penalised until mid-way through the second half. The home side enjoyed a period of dominance, building phases and protecting possession. Then eventually in the twenty-eighth minute they took full advantage of a mix-up in the visitors defence, moved the ball to Brown on the right wing who crossed the line to touch down for the opening try of the game. Murphy converted to give Omagh a four point advantage.

This was then further extended in the thirty-seventh minute when, in their anxiety to regain control of the ball, Enniskillen were penalised for going off-side at a ruck.  

The resulting penalty was duly converted to leave the home seven points ahead at the end at the interval.

From the re-start both packs tried to control territory, with neither side managing to establish dominance. The third quarter of the game being played between the two twenty-two metre lines.  Enniskillen’s efforts eventually paid off when in the twentieth minute the home side defence was deemed to have been off-side at the break-down. McVitty reduced arrears by three points with the resulting penalty.

The home side riposte was almost immediate. Omagh attacked the Enniskillen line from the resulting re-start. They drove at the visitor’s defence, managing to control the ball, building several phases, before releasing Mitchell on the wing to score the first of his brace of trys for the afternoon. Any allusions the visitors may have about a comeback were quickly dispelled when, five minutes later, he crossed their line again to put the outcome beyond any doubt. 

The Enniskillen back row of Johnston, Harte and Lee excelled in the loose throughout, and as hard as Enniskillen tried to claw their way back into the game in the second period their efforts were constantly frustrated by the home side’s resolute defence.

Then as if to compound Enniskillen’s woes, Omagh once again breached their stretched defence in the thirty-sixth minute to bring their tally for the afternoon to a credible twenty-five points. 

Coach Norman Richmond was expectedly frustrated with the performance but gave credit to a clinical opponent and emphasised the need to learn for the encounter and refocus for the upcoming challenge. 

"I was disappointed with the result obviously on Saturday, but have to hand it to Omagh who capitalised on any mistake made, despite the score line it was really a very tight encounter and Omagh just had the rub of the green for both scores and the benefit of the doubt from the referee on a couple of key decisions. In general our pack played and competed well, good performances again from Mark Hood, Davy Buchanan and Ricky Lee, and it was also good to see Kaine Holden returning to the team after injury showing that he hasn't lost any of his appetite for the game.  

"What was disappointing was our line out this week, it was scrappy and untidy and put our back line under more pressure with little time on the ball.  With regards to our back line on Saturday, we never got an opportunity to really threaten Omagh, with Nathan Richmond unavailable and Alan Wilkinson and Nick Finlay as the centre partnership we knew we would lose a little pace but would be defensively sound, the two boys just never really got a good chance to test the Omagh line. Great to see Ashley Finlay back on Saturday following a fracture to his hand which saw him miss the last three games, always dangerous with ball in hand, Omagh knew he was a massive threat and had him marshalled well throughout the game. We now have to regroup and prepare ourselves both mentally and physically for the Towns Cup quarter final this Saturday."

Their focus of attention now moves to next Saturday and a home encounter with Ballynahinch in the quarter–final of The Town’s Cup. The Ireland France Six Nations encounter will be televised afterwards for what should be a great day of viewing at Enniskillen Rugby Club.