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Enniskillen RFC travelled to Magherafelt on Saturday to face Ballymena RFC in a Semi Final of the Ulster Branch Under 16s competition. This is the penultimate match in a campaign that started last September and has seen the team compete against much larger clubs thoughout the Province.
Having secured the section two league title in early February all involved have put in a tremendous amount of work to improve their game play and work on weaker areas of game management, this level of commitment from young men who have the pressure of school exams and part time jobs is commendable.
Due to the outcome being of such importance the game was to be played at a neutral venue however it still meant an early start for the trip up to Magherfelt for the 11am kick off, but a good warm up allowed the Skins players to start the game in a very positive manner, after five minutes from a strong scrum scrum half Josh Kyle spread the ball out and the backs quickly found Tyler Millar who was playing on the wing and broke through to open the scoring with an unconverted try for a Five point lead.
The Ballymena team then started to use the strong wind, which allowed their half back pairing to kick and give their wingers the opportunity to chase into Enniskillen territory, but the defense was well organised with full back Owen McGovern taking control. However just before the half time break a fortunate bounce was gathered on the wing and the Antrim team equalized the score with an unconverted try.
The second half started in dramatic fashion after only two minutes when Connor Maguire broke from a ruck and slipped a pass to Jamie Kelly who found man of the match Eoin Cleary at center running a great line and he offloaded to Millar for his second score on the left wing, the subsequent difficult conversion was slotted over by Jarlaith Maguire to give a seven point lead.
The next phase of play showed that the Fermanagh team can not only punish weak defenses but they can also protect their own line with some ferocious tackles going in from 1 to 15, and good work from the forwards allowed firstly out half Michael O,Hare then Kyle to use their boots and the wind to releave the pressure.
Ballymena should be commended for the way they faced the increasing line breaks from the larger Skins pack however the game plan reaped rewards when strike runners Kelly and Maguire found the spaces opening up as the Antrim side began to tire, after prop David Jenkins stole the ball and offloaded to Maguire the second row only needed to slip a short pass to Kelly who was at full pace and not to be denied going over under the posts and having taken over the kicking duties he slotted over the conversion for the additional two and a fourteen point lead.
The next was a great solo effort when from a dominant scrum No.8 Kelly picked up from ten metres out and drove over for an unconverted score and bring the game to a brilliant conclusion for the Enniskillen lads and a convincing 24 to 5 point win.
These match reports can only give a brief outline of the play and those involved, however it must be recognized that rugby is a team sport and all the squad members must be congratulated for the efforts that they have put in so far this season, we have some star players yes but the whole team have developed tremendously this season and all at the club their friends and parents should be very proud of the way they have played and represented themselves, their club and the county.
Having made it to one final which will be played on April the fourth to hopefully secure the All Ulster League Title the youth teams now move on to the Ulster Cup campaign when Dromore RFC come to Mullaghmeem for an Under sixteens clash and Monaghan RFC travel to face our Under fourteens, both games will take place on the 21st of March 11 am Kick Off All support would be very much appreciated.