Enniskillen 1st XV secured their place in the junior cup quarter final last Saturday with a win away to Cooke RFC. While it was a fairly narrow margin with visiting Skins finishing 19-10 at the whistle, they never really looked like losing the contest after an early score and a controlled performance, despite wet conditions creating a very start stop affair. Cooke’s kicking game and counter attack was well neutralised by a dangerous looking Skins back three of Hoy, Parke and Ashley Finlay who left few options for the home side who were well shepherded by the defence in open play and victim to a dominant scrum, although the referee’s allegiance wavered often in this area.
Enniskillen took the lead quite early on after setting up a lineout deep in the Cooke half; the home side opted not to engage the maul but a quick thinking Kennedy turned and went for the line, crossing for the first score, converted by Nick Finlay.
Straight from the restart there was pressure on the home side once again, carries through the pack from Harte, Buchanan and Kelly were making good ground with Kennedy working hard in support, while the centre pairing of Mark O’Shea and Himi Manuel were ever threatening. Soon a penalty came the way of Skins and the extended their lead to 0-10 up.
Cooke came back into the contest in the second quarter as a few breaks in attack put Skins on the back foot as they scrambled to get around the corner. A chip over the top from one of the Cooke backs was covered by Alex Parke whose contest with the oncoming Cooke chaser was deemed illegal and the home side picked up a penalty try to come back within 7-10.
Another penalty came to Cooke as Skins grew frustrated at the breakdown and the two sides were soon level at 10-10. Skins finished the half on top as the Cooke prop intentionally passed the ball out of play to end the half, leaving Finlay with a kick at goal for 3 points to end the half 10-13 up.
The second half remained disjointed at times but reliable backline defence and hard work from the Skins forwards kept the side dominant and Skins calmly took their points as opportunities came their way with two further penalties from the boot of Nick Finlay. After a long arm wrestle in the middle of the pitch, a break from Ashley Finlay brought play deep into the Cooke half where they came away with a penalty and a further three points at 10-16 up.
The Skins maul was making good ground once again and a series of intensive pick and go’s was just held up over the line and a penalty came from the resultant scrum, and Skins opted to put themselves out of touch with another kick from Finlay to go 19-10 up as the fixture came to a close.
It wasn’t always free flowing rugby by any means but Skins demonstrated their ability to close out a game in poor conditions against a resilient home side which is all that matters when it comes to cup rugby. The 1st XV return to the league now this Saturday as they return to Belfast to play CIYMS.