|Enniskillen Ladies u18
||36 - 0
||Virginia Ladies u18
Enniskillen U18 Girls travelled to Armagh Rugby Club to face a much fancied Virginia side in the final of the Ulster Youth Girls Cup. Skins were facing a team that had beaten Armagh 52-0 in the Semi Final, and knew that they had to improve on their Semi Final performance if they were to come away with silverware. Despite Virginia’s impressive Semi Final result, the Skins girls were quietly confident that they could overturn their southern opponents.
The game started with both teams locked horns in a war of physical attrition, as one team would try their best to bully the other team up front. In the opening exchanges however, it was Enniskillen that came out on top, as Virginia struggled to get out of their half. The County Cavan side in previous matches had run a lot of play through their talented fly half, although on the day, she didn’t get an opportunity to go near the ball without Alice Hurst hunting her down and either putting in a massive tackle, turning the ball over or charging the ball down. Even if the Virginia fly half managed to escape Hurst’s clutches momentarily to clear, most of her kicks went straight to Emma Shaw who counter attacked with venom and sheer pace that Virginia couldn’t handle. Furthermore on the odd occasion that Virginia got the ball wider than the fly half channel, Ellie Ingram, Lucy Barr and Rebecca Pennell had organised the defence so astutely that there were little to no gaps to be found. Virginia couldn’t escape their own half.
With ball in hand Skins looked sharp but were unfortunate not to have scored several tries, but for handling errors, or a strange desire to off load from every tackle when sometimes it wasn’t on. The Skins girls did get a well deserved try through the incessant Abbie Parkinson, who has a work rate that would put Paul O’Connell to shame. After Emma Shaw nearly scored from one of her scintillating counter attacks, Enniskillen recycled the ball well and passed the ball along the line, through half the team’s set of hands, until Parkinson took it upon herself to crash through a half gap and score under the posts for Skins first points of the afternoon. Kathryn Dane was never going to miss from in front of the posts adding the conversion to bring the score to 7-0.
The first half continued in the same way, with Virginia well and truly camped in their own half, and Skins creating chances for the likes of Niamh Toolan on one wing, who nearly crossed for a great team try, until she was hauled down just short, a tackle that caused her to sprain her ankle and bravely play on! Zoe Donaldson came close on the other wing as well, but for some impressive scramble defence from Virginia. Skins carried relentlessly with Rachel West, Katie Boles and Sophie Magwood causing huge problems to the Virginia defence. Virginia nearly had the last say of the half braking well through their winger, until Zoe Donaldson snuffed it out with an impressive cover tackle which brought the half to a close and saw Skins lead 7-0.
As impressive as Skins were in the first half, the score was still tight and Virginia were still very much in the game, so the Fermanagh based girls knew they had to maintain the intensity and improve the accuracy.
Ellie ‘the lion-heart’ Ingram marshalled the defence brilliantly shouting louder than any amount of supporters could, and putting in a few great tackles on girls twice her size. Lucy Barr was producing off loads that baffled the mind, and Rebecca Pennell was reading them and cutting superb lines that had Virginia chasing shadows. Not to be out done the Skins forwards started to throw the ball around as Claire Boles and Alison Glass started to make their mark on the game with some ferocious carries. Not far into the second half, Virginia had a scrum on their own five meter line, which was brilliantly stolen by Skins (thanks in part to Gareth Beatty and Ryan Cathcart’s coaching session that week) Kathryn Dane seized on the disarray and floated through several defenders to score a great try. She was unfortunate with the conversion from wide out.
This lifted the Enniskillen girls and they mercilessly kicked on to punish Virginia throughout the second half. The passion and commitment to the cause was epitomized when Hollie Bruce put her body on the line, and still worked endlessly in defence and attack. Virginia enjoyed a period of pressure in the Skins half, but when they looked remotely like breaking the line, Emma Shaw and Kathryn Dane worked tirelessly to shepard their opponents into touch and deny Virginia any points. This was particularly impressive from Dane considering her shoulder was causing her quite a bit of pain!
Hurst, Barr, Pennell, Ingram, Glass, and Parkinson continued to make line breaks, and Sophie Magwood and Rachel West continued their industrious work at the break down, securing the ball quickly for the outside backs to exploit the space. Claire Boles saw a bit of space and took her opportunity well rounding the defence and then scoring under the posts, Dane’s conversion attempt was good.
At this stage Virginia were completely demoralised. Every time they attacked they faced a maroon wall, with Katie Boles leading by example and racking up quite a tackle count. Things didn’t get much better for them when Skins had the ball, with holes appearing everywhere, exploited brilliantly by Ingram, and the deadly duo of Barr and Pennell. From one such line break, an off load to Parkinson, who was steaming on to the ball caused huge issues. Parkinson stormed over from 30 odd meters out and wasn’t going to be stopped!
Skins were ruthless and added two more tries before the end with Pennell showing her centre instincts and crashing on to a flat ball from Dane to score under the posts, again Dane added the extras. Alison Glass then added her name to the score sheet after some patient phase play, when she crashed over the line to get the last score of the day, leaving the scoreboard at 36-0.
This team, led by the peerless Kathryn Dane who has led from the front in every game, played three matches to win the cup, scoring 99 points and not conceding any, a stat that every single girl that played a part can be proud of as they were a credit to themselves and their club. Congratulations to Coach Patrick McCleery and all involved in this momentous achievement and groundbreaking progress for Girls' Rugby at ERFC.