|Enniskillen 1st XV
||3 - 20
||Carrickfergus 1st XV
Enniskillen rounded off a poor month of results with a home defeat to league title contenders Carrickfergus at Mullaghmeen on Saturday in atrocious conditions. It was another game which, much like the Coleraine defeat of the previous week, saw Enniskillen struggling to put anything expansive together in poor conditions, and then perhaps being out muscled by a larger forward pack in some pivotal moments of the game to make the difference in a tight encounter.
Coach Norman Richmond acknowledged the conditions really limited the team on the day but admitted the team still weren’t performing to their potential regardless of the scenario.
"Conditions on Saturday did not allow for any free flowing rugby to be played - Carrick remained composed and took advantage of any mistakes made and capitalised. There appeared again to a real lack of leadership and composure within the team which has crept into the team over the month of Febuary which has led to sub standard performances on game day; this needs to be addressed otherwise what was an excellent first half of the season will be wasted as this team is much better than what has been on display recently. We will have to put this right with our next game away to Holywood on Saturday and hopefully finish the season on a high.”
Enniskillen started well playing with the wind, and strong running from Ashley Finlay made good yards early on to put Carrick under pressure; Chris McVitty also executed some masterful kicks to pin the visitors back. Despite the conditions the line out also functioned well in the early stages through Kaine Holden and possession was good for the home side, however the muddy conditions were a constant hurdle with knock ons and handling errors a frequent hindrance when trying to mount pressure. Constant infringements from Carrick allowed Enniskillen a kick to touch and a well taken line out in the Carrick half then a break from out-half Chris McVitty made excellent ground before a penalty at the breakdown gave the home side an opportunity for 3 points in front of the posts, taken with ease by McVitty to put Skins in the lead.
The response from Carrick was swift as they capitalised on an Enniskillen knock on at the restart to unleash waves of forward runners at the home side and eventually winning the penalty, but the resulting kick at goal drifted wide. Carrick again came looking for points from the 22 drop out with their big second row making a clean break through only to be eventually taken down not far from the Enniskillen try line by David Buchanan, the scramble defence was industrious but Carrick had been gifted too many yards and eventually crossed the line for a try.
Most of the play remained in the middle of the park for an extended period as both teams wrestled for the ascendency, Enniskillen defended well and big hits came in from Alan Wilkinson and Michael Cadden to name a few, but when in attack Enniskillen simply weren’t clinical enough and whilst there were always going to be handling errors in the conditions, Skins also failed to capitalise on crucial penalty opportunities. Carrick in contrast took their opportunities well and following a penalty for offside on the half way line used the kick to touch to set up a line-out on the Enniskillen 22-metre line, a further penalty at the maul allowed Carrick to take another 3 points before half time to leave the visitors 10-3 up.
The conditions worsened in the second half and the pitch really started to come apart but Enniskillen started the half positively with Johnston and Maguire carrying well; but the line speed in defence from the visitors gave the home side a lot of problems as they struggled to get quick ball in the conditions. A tap and go from Finlay after a Penalty on the half way had Enniskillen deep into the Carrick half and displaying some patient close quarters carrying through the forwards, a beautifully executed cross field from McVitty was excellently taken by Robert Connor approaching the Carrick try line only to be unfortunately fumbled in contact. The pressure was truly turned around then as a Carrick clearance kick was knocked on by the receiver on the Enniskillen 22-metre line, the resulting scrum was dominated by Carrick who were then awarded the penalty, choosing to kick to touch. The line-out was taken well by Carrick on the 5-metre line and after numerous pick and go’s from the forwards eventually crossed the try line to leave the score 15-3, and Enniskillen’s hope of reprisal fairly well dashed.
The Carrick flanker was soon sent off for repeated breakdown infringements but Skins weren’t to have an advantage for long as the following Skins lineout was stolen and Richard Beatty then saw yellow for collapsing the resulting maul. Carrick went for the line out yet again and the defence was solid from Enniskillen who continued to battle on their own try line to keep the opposition out and eventually held up an attempted try from Carrick in the corner. Unfortunately the following Carrick scrum gained momentum in the contest and Skins were powerless to avoid being pushed back over their own line and allowing a simple touch down for the Carrick number eight to leave the score 20-3.
Enniskillen had some good phases in the last 15 minutes as, knowing they were beaten, began to play more expansively and spread the ball wide quite well given the conditions. Alan Wilkinson put in some powerful carries at inside centre, and Robert Connor and Ashley Finlay managed to find space out wide and made good ground on a few attempts, but again a knock on inside the Carrick 22-metre gave the visitors another let off. Despite playing some good phases of Rugby, and having Carrick under serious pressure in their own half towards the latter stages of the game, it was minor errors and lack of clinical finishing that continue to offer the opposition relief and stop Enniskillen from capitalising on a lot of good work. The game finished 20-3 to Carrickfergus as both sides looked relieved to see the end of the encounter in what was a miserable day for rugby. Enniskillen now play away to Holywood this weekend in an opportunity to capture an elusive win against the struggling league side.