|Clogher Valley 1XV
||17 - 21
Clogher Valley 1XV 17
Enniskillen 1XV 21
It was a memorable battle at The Cran last Saturday in wet and windy conditions as Enniskillen 1st XV travelled to Clogher in the semi-final of the Ulster Town’s Cup. It was an incredibly physical fixture that teetered back and forth throughout but ultimately it was the Skins men who came out on top thanks to a score in the last few minutes of the game to take the lead, securing a trip to Kingspan Stadium on Easter Monday as well as recording their seventh consecutive win.
The home side started well, dealing a blow to Enniskillen when the big Clogher pack earned a penalty from the scrum, an area where Skins had enjoyed a lot of dominance recently, allowing them a kick at goal to go 3 points ahead. Skins looked formidable in open play after the restart and attacked well, carries coming from Carleton and Buchanan in an attempt to break the resolute defence from the home side, forcing a penalty which just drifted wide from the boot of Finlay.
Clogher came back hard and picked up a penalty at the breakdown which brought them deep into Skins’ half. The Skins’ defence was solid but a held up try after repeated pick and go’s resulted in a scrum and Clogher executed a big shove that claimed the penalty try as it collapsed just short of the line, putting the home side 10-0 up for a stellar start.
Not unfamiliar with coming back from deficits recently Skins worked their way into the Clogher half and set up camp, the line out functioned well through Rutledge at the tail and, following good yards from the maul the Skins attack became a series of close quarter carries from the pack, the ball retention proving unflappable and after what must have been 20 phases the ball went out to Lendrum who cut through to score under the posts, converted by Finlay bringing the scoreline to 10-7 at the end of the first half.
The second half started in Skins’ favour as Clogher began to leak penalties in defence for creeping offside and slowing down ball at the breakdown, giving Skins some much needed territory. The line out gave Skins a good base and they began to batter the Clogher line but the defence proved difficult to break down. The defenders however began to get dragged in and Jamie Kelly showed his skills with ball in hand, throwing a miss pass to James Ferguson who crossed the line unimpeded to score under the posts, converted by Finlay to lead 10-14.
Clogher again responded with tremendous pressure from the restart, executing a well worked counter attack from the clearance kick and setting up another big period of carries from the forwards. A gap at the edge of the ruck gave Clogher some much too easy yards into the Skins 22’ and from there the pack began a series of pick and go’s, both sides hurling themselves at the other in a war of attrition. Eventually just a couple of feet out from the line a Clogher carry got under the defence and touched down on the line, converted to go 17-14 up.
With about 5 minutes on the clock Skins were back in their own half and looking up against it. With an attacking lineout way back nearing their own 22’ and outhalf Lendrum just forced from the field. Skins calmly won their own ball and found Nick Finlay at 10 who drew the defence and put James Ferguson through a gap, then to Conor Hoy, making good yards before executing a chip and chase down the wing. The industrious Finlay was in support and tackled the full back to dislodge the ball, then passed out to Millar who rapidly brought play to 10 metres from the try line before being stopped by hard working scramble defence from Clogher. Support was at hand however and Skins began carrying at the line, Warrington eventually powering over, converted by Finlay to go 17-21 up with 2 minutes to go.
Clogher disrupted the restart and reclaimed the ball with an eye at restoring the lead before the full time whistle but Jamie Kelly crucially ripped the ball from an attacker after the 80 minute mark and Finlay cleared to touch followed by immense celebration from the Skins men and disbelief from Clogher.
Unsurprisingly it was as physical a game as Skins have had this season, knowing how difficult it is to overturn a recently rampant Clogher Valley side on home turf. The 1st XV face a big challenge this week with a Tuesday night fixture away to Dromore and their final league game Saturday hosting Grosvenor, hoping to finish secure in their league and begin preparing for their Kingpsan cup final.