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Ulster Under-18 Plate Final
Enniskillen U18 Boys 41
Rainey OB U18 Boys 0
On Saturday Skins U18s, in the Ulster Plate Final, played some of the best rugby of the season, improving on an almost perfect display from two weeks ago in their semi-final match against Banbridge they were to again face another All Ireland League club in Rainey OB in the final.
Skins had met this team 3 weeks ago in a competitive Nutty Krust semi-final but had come away defeated 18-0 after playing the match despite a lack of transparency from the Rainey coaches on their selection and player eligibility. No one needed a bigger incentive to try and turn the result around and it was Skins’ Jordan Anderson who beat his opposite number out wide with pure pace to settle any nerves. Playing into a strong breeze the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
From the kick off the forwards secured possession and continued to trouble Rainey, dominating at the breakdown and starving them of any possession in these early encounters. Not to be outdone, the backs were also looking slick and didn’t seem to be troubled by the breezy conditions and once again it was Jordan Anderson who crossed the line in similar fashion to his first try to make the score 10-0 with the wind again making it almost impossible to kick any conversion attempt.
Rainey looked shell shocked at what was unfolding but had no answers to the Skins disciplined display of top class rugby and the constant attacks coming from both forwards and backs. With the wind at their backs Rainey kicked aimlessly and at every opportunity Skins returned the ball with some fine handling all day. It was from one of those kicks where the ball went 60 yards and dead so giving Skins a scrum in the Rainey half. A pick and go from Oisin Monaghan was to again put the Rainey defence on the back foot and after several more phases of play it was a genius scrum half Will Greenaway touchdown sniping in under the posts making an easy conversion for Monaghan leaving the score 17-0.
Rainey continued to fight hard and a brief spell of pressure inside the Skins 22 seemed to pay off when a solo run from a Rainey player seen him cross the line out wide, although choosing not be satisfied with that, he continued his run under the posts but he hadn’t banked on the smallest player on the pitch Matty Brown covering back at pace to make the tackle and somehow manage to hold the ball up. It was this single act that was to lift Skins to a whole new level and they were to dominate for the rest of the half with a well taken forwards try finished off by Niall Keenan, and the backs showing flashes of brilliance resulting in a well deserved flying Jay Maguire try to leave the half time score 27-0.
Taking nothing for granted the half time team talk was very much to remain focused on the job at hand and to keep to the disciplined game plan and controlled team play. With the wind having died considerably there was little advantage to be had in the second half but still Daire Hill who was majestic at out half controlled the game well whilst still managing to involve everyone in the game at different times. Brilliant handling in centre field from Dylan Flynn and Fergus Fee all day resulted in a second try for the flying Jay Maguire, leaving both wingers with two scores each and still asking the question who is the quickest? With Captain Monaghan off the field for an alleged high tackle it was Daire Hill who slotted home the conversion to make it 34-0.
Zak Kyle came on to the wing when Jordan Anderson’s leg injury returned and Francis McCrystal also came on to add fresh speed and power, replacing Barra McStravick who had made an impact himself with some hard running and tackling.
Even with Skins down to 14 men Rainey were still unable to make any in roads into the game, not through their lack of effort, but through the determination of Skins’ entire team who were putting their bodies on the line. Big carries from the entire front row of Conan Leonard, Luke Thompson and Aaron Clarke were instrumental in setting the foundation for the performance making the hard yards and ably backed up by the powerhouses in Tomas Scallon, Barra McStravick, and Francis McCrystal, but most of all the back row trio of Niall Keenan, Oisin Timoney and Oisin Monaghan, with the two wing forwards in particular picking the Rainey pockets all day long and securing possession time and time again. Chris Balfour returning from a broken hand also came on late in the game replacing Tomas Scallon to add his power and bulk to the game and was outstanding.
Now back to 15 men there was to be time for one last score when once again a complete team performance ended with Niall Keenan getting his second of the day, which Hill converted to round off a brilliant performance and final result 41-0 and Ulster Plate Champions.
It was unfortunate that three other eligible Cup Players were unable to play their part in this match for various reasons but Ruairi McManus, Oisin Jackson and Jamie Kearns had all played a massive part in achieving this end result.
Head coach for the U18s George Richmond had this to say for his players after an incredibly successful season with many of them moving on to senior rugby.
“Whilst try scorers are really important, games none the less are won and lost on a teams ability to defend. This team has finished the season with Silverware for many reasons and their ability to defend is just one of them. The fitness, the skill set, the commitment to one another, the team spirit, but mostly and for some of them it took a long time to come, but their own self-belief. I want them to take this self-belief into next season at Senior level and to those who are remaining at 18s for another year continue to believe in themselves, work hard with the young fellas coming up to join next season, be patient with them, remember how you were at pre season and look where you are now and how far you’ve come and developed, but most of all encourage that self-belief because without that, no matter how hard you work at the other things you’ll under achieve.
‘Lastly a big thanks to the entire squad, Captain Oisin Monaghan, vice Captains Hill and Timoney for your efforts all season and it’s a great feeling to end the season on a high with you boys. Thanks also to Kenny Armstrong and Davy Flynn for their help from pre season back last July until now wishing you both all the best in what you choose to do in the future at ERFC. To youth convenor Stuart McCrae thanks for your assistance during the season and to the Club Officials who have backed my efforts over the last four years and given me their support as well again thanks for that.”