Enniskillen continued from Wednesday night’s midweek 14-10 victory over Lisburn with a bonus point win over Randalstown at home on Saturday, their fourth consecutive league win in what has been a stunning March recovery, additionally it was an excellent performance against a side who were ahead on league points prior to the encounter, and which featured a much more clinical Skins exhibition. The contest was a perfect showcase for aspects of Enniskillen’s game which have improved over the recent month following a dismal February, the Scrum and line out functioned well in attack and proved hugely disruptive when in defence, the tactical kicking along with the kick chase was much more purposeful where it previously lacked intent and the rucking from the forward pack was much more aggressive and effectively maintained possession throughout. Coach Norman Richmond was clearly pleased with the display delivered for the final home fixture.
From the start Enniskillen showed poise and patience, the kick off calmly collected by Kaine Holden, offloading to Jamie Johnston for the crash ball, followed by a nicely placed kick from Nick Finlay into touch on the half, the ensuing line out well executed and sent out the back line to test the Randalstown defence; Randalstown in turn showed they weren’t just there to make up the numbers, putting in an unwavering defensive effort throughout the game.
There were good phases from both sides in the early exchanges in the midfield, Ashley Finlay’s counter attack proved a handful for the visiting defence and made good ground into the opposition half, then a powerful carry from centre Alan Wilkinson forced a breakdown infringement from Randalstown, and a nicely struck penalty from Chris McVitty followed for three points.
The visitors kept Enniskillen well pinned in their own half from the restart but struggled to capitalise as the Enniskillen scrum seemed to be in the ascendency, the front row of Mark Hood, Ryan Cathcart and Steven Fox taking two opposition balls against the head in the early stages, although Randalstown did manage to come away with 3 points following an unfortunate breakdown penalty inside the Enniskillen 22 metre line.
A try still eluded Enniskillen as penalties crept in on a few occasions when the home side were close to crossing the line, particularly around the ruck which is always a highly aggressive encounter, and perhaps Enniskillen were intent on signalling they refused to be bullied in this area. The forwards and backs continued to link together well in attack with breaks from Wilkinson, Nathan Richmond and Ashley Finlay in the backline combining well with powerful runs from Johnston, David Buchanan and Ricky Lee in the forwards. The pressure deep in the Randalstown half eventually paid dividends when another penalty was awarded and McVitty put the home side back in the lead with a further 3 points.
Randalstown enjoyed some possession now for a period but the Enniskillen defence was tenacious, with Nick Finlay marshalling the back line well and huge hits coming in across the board from Lee, Cadden and Wilkinson with Jack Harte the usual menace at the breakdown; keeping the contest at 6-3 for the end of the first half.
Enniskillen were unrelenting from the second half restart, forcing a knock on from Randalstown and then offering a huge drive in the following scrum, giving the backs good front foot ball for wingers Donagh O’Callaghan and then Ashley Finlay to put Skins deep in opposition territory. Then following some good phases inside the 22 an eventual scrum on the 5 metre line gave Enniskillen the perfect base to mount an attack; Number Eight Ricky Lee picked from the back and offloaded dexterously to Paddy McCleery who put Ashley Finlay in for a score in the corner, wonderfully converted by McVitty to leave the score 13-3.
Randalstown responded well gaining possession back from the restart and forcing a big defensive effort from Enniskillen, which eventually forced a knock on and the following Scrum gave McVitty a chance to clear their lines with a well placed kick to touch. Wilkinson soon put the home side back inside the opposition 22 metre line with a excellent kick to touch and Randalstown soon succumbed to the pressure and gave away a penalty; opting to kick to touch the resulting 5 metre line out and maul was well executed and David Buchanan crossed the line for another score, again converted by McVitty to leave the score 20-3.
Randalstown really struggled to achieve any possession now with the Enniskillen line out functioning well and the Skins scrum also dominant. This was clear when another Randalstown scrum feed was taken against the head and after only two short range carries from the forwards, McCleery released the backs and Richmond broke through the defence before offloading to Finlay who scored his second in the corner, unconverted to leave the score 25-3.
Randalstown again responded well from the restart and were camped in the Enniskillen half but another stolen scrum cancelled out the attack and McVitty had Enniskillen back down in familiar territory once again. After excellently defending the Skins onslaught in their own half for some time Randalstown eventually were awarded the penalty but failed to make touch and Ashley Finlay delivered a punishing counter attack before eventually being felled on the half way, and scrum half Paddy McCleery, spotting the scattered defence, picked from the ruck and broke through for a sniping run, offloading to O’Callaghan in support who scored the final points of the game to leave the score 30-3. Randalstown fought hard from the restart in search of a consolation try but the home side remained resolute until the end to leave the score unchanged.
The 1st XV play another Wednesday night fixture this week with a home friendly against the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment before going into their second last league game on Saturday away to Grosvenor RFC.