|Clogher Valley 1XV
||22 - 22
Enniskillen travelled to Clogher Valley last weekend to open their league campaign against their local rivals. In a fixture where Skins showed the more dominant form overall, it was some opportunism from the home side combined with perhaps some poor decision making and ill discipline from Enniskillen that let the victory slip with a Valley score in the last play of the game.
Enniskillen started with plenty of vigour, the forward pack moving the ball well and making excellent ground through David Buchanan and Jamie Kelly, Jack Rutledge also making plenty of hard yards on the day. The scrum contest was hard fought throughout but Enniskillen seemed to have the ascendency and gained some crucial penalties on occasion through Warrington, Cathcart and Beatty, with Steven Fox off the bench. The line out functioned well for Skins too through jumpers Carleton and Kennedy providing a solid platform to unleash a sharp new look back line.
An early score came for Skins when a lineout inside the 22' led to a maul and a series of pick and go's, James Carleton eventually crossing the line for the first score of the league season, unconverted to go 0-5 up. Clogher carried well to assert pressure in the Skins half off the restart and Enniskillen seemed to be absorbing the pressure well but then began a series of penalties for alleged offside as the referee deemed Skins' efforts overzealous. Clogher took their 3 points from the first penalty to bring proceedings to a mere 3-5.
Soon Clogher were back in the Skins half and , in a hotly debated match highlight, following a penalty to Clogher in the Skins half, play was called off for an injury but then quietly resumed as the Enniskillen side remained grouped in front of the posts; an opportunistic Clogher opting for the crossfield where an undisturbed winger crossed for a score to put the home side in the lead, 10-3.
Skins' poor luck was compounded shortly afterwards as they again made speedy progress towards the Clogher 22' and looked set to add to their tally before a Paul Armstrong intercept added another score for the home side, 17-3.
Undaunted Skins returned to their task and again built their phases in the Clogher half. After continued pressure from the forward pack and numerous close quarter carries, the ball found James Ferguson at 13 who cut through the Clogher defence from the 22' and somehow made it over the line to plant the ball down beside the post, converted to trail 17-10 going into the end of the half.
The early second half was all Enniskillen as they retained possession well and and continued to make good ground off setpiece and through an impressive display of pick and go's. Defensively Skins exerted a lot of pressure through the centre pairing of Ferguson and new addition Himi Manuel while the counter attack of the back three of O'Shea, Keys and Parke nullified any kicking threat from the home side. The pack continued to defend aggressively with the returning Jack Harte looking as tenacious as ever. It was James Ferguson who again provided the impetus for a score as he collected a Nick Finlay kick and made good ground into the Clogher half before booting the ball beyond the try line for Josh Kennedy in support to touch down on his official Skins debut, Skins now drawing 17-17.
Skins were soon back in the Clogher half and making hard yards through the pack before the ball went wide to Alex Parke, who had looked dangerous throughout but now finally with some space was able to glide through for a score to give Skins the lead 17-22.
With less than a quarter remaining it was time for some well worked game management to seal the win but repeated errors and ill discipline had Skins camped in their own 22' for the remainder. Skins defended heroically at times and managed some fantastic turnovers but then failed to exit into the opposition half. Clogher to their credit made very few mistakes now and seemed to have fixed the cracks in their lineout to give them a solid attacking base. Eventually after repeated attempts, the home side exploited an overlap out wide for their winger to finish in the corner, unconverted to end the contest at 22-22, a frustrating result for Enniskillen given their evident ability at times but probably justified given their lapses at crucial points in the game. There were however plenty of positives and the 4 try bonus point sees Skins take 3 league points from their first fixture with some relatively simple work ons.