||27 - 8
Enniskillen 1XV 27
Cooke 1XV 8
Enniskillen 1st XV put a visiting Cooke side to the sword last weekend to complete 3 wins in a row and claim a crucial league bonus point to help keep them out of the bottom two.
Another dominant forward pack performance yielded most of the tries but some solid defensive work from the back line against pacy opposition helped seal the 27-8 victory.
Cooke started well and put Skins under pressure in the first 20 minutes as some of their big forwards managed to get in behind the defence creating quick ball for a dangerous back line. The Skins scrambling defence was effective however along with two crucial turnovers from Tyler Millar who ripped the ball from the opposition in contact to end periods of pressure from the visitors. The Skins line out struggled in the strong wind in the first half but the scrum was ever dominant with another destructive performance from the Warrington, Cathcart and Beatty front row with Ferguson in rotation from the bench. Penalties began to come thick and fast from the scrum and soon Skins were deep in the Cooke half, coming away with 3 points from the boot of Nick Finlay to open scoring.
Cooke had another foray into the Enniskillen half from the restart and again forced some resolute defence from the home side, a big defensive performance coming from the back row of Arnold, Rutledge and Carleton, the visitors having to settle for an offside penalty to give them 3 points from the period of attack.
Skins resumed the pressure in the opposition half from the restart and again set up multiple scrums, having had one pick and drive over the line held up, it was scrum half Finlay who crossed the line off the back of a dominant drive to increase the tally, converted to go 10-3 up.
From the restart Skins were again making inroads into the Cooke half but turnovers at the breakdown were relieving some pressure for the visitors. Fortunately Carleton and Parke continued to pressure the Cooke line out, and with the scrum hugely dominant all the possession was in Skins’ favour.
After being awarded a penalty on half way for another rampaging scrum, the last play of the half saw Lendrum deliver a pinpoint kick to touch to set up a line out and maul 10 metres out and Skins crept towards the try line with a series of pick and go’s. Cooke crept offside in defence and Skins were awarded another penalty, opting of course to go for the scrum. After repeated resets the referee was left with no option but to award the penalty try as Cooke continued to buckle under pressure, 17-3 up to Skins at the half.
Clearly a priority for Skins was to keep the momentum going in the second half and they didn’t disappoint, hounding Cooke at the restart and soon regaining possession, gaining good yards through a Mark O’Shea break in midfield. The forwards continued to break the line with David Buchanan testing the fringe of the ruck and Jamie Kelly dragging in the defence before Ashley Finlay spotted an overlap on the blindside and forced his way over to just touch down on the line, converted again by Nick Finlay to go 22-3 up.
The line out was back to form again now and the Skins maul began to gain the ascendency, one effort on the half way steamrolling all the way to the opposition 22’. Cooke under pressure continued to give away penalties at the breakdown and Lendrum consistently pinned them back on their line with kicks to touch. Eventually a collapsed maul led to a series of pick and go’s and Gareth Beatty crossed for the bonus point score, 27-3 now to Skins.
The contest began to fizzle now slightly in the final 20, some handbags on the sideline putting the referee on high alert. Jamie Kelly saw a yellow card for a high tackle and Cooke registered a try off first phase as their very dangerous left wing broke the line and used his considerable pace to score in the corner. Scrums too went uncontested now as the visiting front row began to show the wear of a torturous contest. Skins continued to seek another try but the Cooke defence was resolute and Finlay kicked to touch on the 80 minute mark to end proceedings 27-8 to the home side.
It was a well rounded performance from Skins who showed their desire throughout and seem to have found their form. The league remains precarious but the side have achieved about as much as can be asked in the last month and can now turn their focus to the ever enjoyable Town’s Cup where they host Ballymena 2nd XV in the quarter-final this Saturday, 2.30pm KO and all support appreciated.