|Enniskillen 1st XV
||3 - 44
||Ballynahinch 2nd XV
Enniskillen played host to a very strong Ballynahinch seconds side on Saturday past at Mullaghmeen, in a Towns Cup quarter final clash that promised physicality from the outset. It was the visitors that laid down the early marker when they kicked off deep into the skins half and defended excellently to contain the home side.
With pressure mounting on Skins, Hinch forced a knock on which saw the first scrum of the game. Skins had used their scrummage as a weapon for most of the season, however Ballynahinch had different ideas, winning their own penalty from the scrum, and setting the tone for the rest of the encounter, their goal-kicker was however unsuccessful with the penalty attempt.
The game continued in the same vein for a short while, with Skins having the ball, but not being able to break out of their own half due to Hinch’s strong defence. After a while it was inevitable that the visitors would turn the ball over and threaten the Skins line. This nearly merited the first try of the game but for a timely intervention from the industrious David Buchannon who turned the ball over and relieved the pressure on the Skins line momentarily.
It did not take long for Hinch to recover from this set back. After several scrum penalties that allowed the away team to force themselves deep into Skins territory, they built a solid plat form for their skilful backs who ran in the games first try in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Skins responded well from the kick off and put together several phases of strong running and good rucking to earn a penalty on the ten meter line, which Chris McVitty slotted beautifully for Skins first, and last points of the match.
Ballynahinch’s rebuttal to conceding three points was to earn two penalties of their own in quick succession, both of which, the visiting kicker converted. From here the visitors then ran in a try just before the half, when their powerful scrum set up clean and quick ball for their dangerous backs, who again crossed in the corner. This time there was no mistake with the conversion.
With the halftime score at 18-3 to the away side, Skins knew they had to start the second half strongly if they were to stand a chance of progressing to the semi final. Unfortunately, the second half started disastrously. Skins kicked off to Hinch who returned the ball with a well placed up and under, the home side failed to field the kick which allowed the Hinch wing to latch onto the loose ball and run in a try that was unconverted but still acted as a hammer blow to the Skins team.
As hard as the home team tried to build phases, they were thwarted time and time again by Hinch, who were then ruthless with ball in hand. One such occasion saw Hinch build phases close to the skins line, until an excellent turnover and break from skipper Jamie Johnston briefly alleviated pressure. However when his support was slow to arrive the visitors turned the ball over and their scrumhalf ran in a try untouched. Hinch then added the extras.
This theme continued, and shortly after, the visitors had another after skins were turned over in midfield and found wanting on the blindside, again the conversion was successful.
Hinch rounded the day off with a solid scrum and a lovely chip by the outhalf which was gathered by the centre under the posts, which when converted left the score at 44-3.
Although it was an ultimately disappointing result from Skins, there were several positives: Robert Connor had an assured and mature debut at fullback, showing some touches of magic, and the Skins spirit never faded, regardless of the score every man fought to the very last minute against exceptionally talented opposition.
It’s been two difficult weeks now for the First XV after an excellent start to 2015, but coach Norman Richmond admitted they were simply outgunned on the day and emphasised the importance of maintaining league focus to provide a solid launchpad for next season.
"We were simply outplayed by a strong Ballynahinch team, their experience was clear from the off and their ability to finish clinically was evident."
"For the rest of the season we now need to set our sights on finishing as high up the league as we can - a top three finish is still well within our grasp."
Skins have to lift their heads now for another tough encounter away to Coleraine in the league this Saturday in a prime opportunity to return to winning ways.