McCambley Cup First Round
Antrim RFC 15 – 5 Enniskillen
After last week’s hard fought victory over the unbeaten Ballynahinch side, the Antrim squad faced a highly physical Enniskillen in the opening round of the McCambley Cup. Enniskillen came into the fixture topping the Minor League West on an equally rich vein of form. Tries from Jack Dempster and Gary Smith and 5 points from the boot of Toby Rowe ensured that Antrim progressed to the next round of the cup.
For the second week in a row, it was Antrim who made the quickest start and some early pressure within the opening minutes saw Toby Rowe miss 2 penalties which would have handed Antrim a 6 point cushion.
CLICK HERE for the shotssssssssssssss
However the team did not dwell on this and persevered and it was in the 5th minute that Antrim finally put some points on the board. After some good return kicking by David McKee, Antrim were able to keep the pressure on and a quick tap and go penalty by Andrew Calvert, sent Jack Dempster into the corner for Antrim’s first. Rowe uncharacteristically missed with the boot as Antrim now lead 5-0.
It looked like Antrim were going to build on their good start as they secured possession and rallied back into the opposing 15 metre. However a stubborn and physical Enniskillen, began to up their game and begin to make some breaks of their own through the pack as they creeped into the Antrim half and on 15 minutes they were rewarded for their work as the Enniskillen number 8 broke a series of poor tackles to score from the 22 metre. With the missed conversion, the score now stood at 5-5.
Antrim almost responded instantly through David McKee, who did well to pick up a poor pass and make it to the Enniskillen 22 metre, only to knock the ball on in the tackle.
At 20 minutes, the game began to get very physical as both sides traded tackles along the half way line. In response to the previous try, there were some excellent individual tackles from Ben Phelps and Dave Kenning with a series of tackles coming from Andrew Chestnutt and Robert Nimmo.
With the increased physicality, players from both sides were dropping like flies. But with the increase in contact, tempers began to flare as Andrew Calvert appeared to be punched while on the ground, off the ball. Thankfully, for both sides, the referee kept things under control and play resumed.
As the half drew to a close, the impressive Ben Phelps broke from half way and after shirking a series of tackles, was grounded by a high tackle. The resulting penalty was kicked by Toby Rowe as Antrim lead this tight affair 8-5 at half time.
The second half was a close fought affair and much of it was jostled on the half way line as both packs were in loggerheads over who could control the game. Dave Kenning and Ben Phelps once again, made some excellent tackles at the breakdown to keep Enniskillen at bay.
Both sides soaked up each other’s attacks, and a rare Antrim break in this half saw Dave McKee make a great offload to Gary Smith on the halfway line to show good legs to make it to the line and between the posts when many wouldn’t have made it. Rowe kicked to make it 15-5 but the game was far from over.
Enniskillen marched into the Antrim half and for the final 10-15 minutes, Antrim were parked on their 22 metre and tryline. Every player put their body on the line as Kenning and Phelps picked off opposition at the base of the rucks. Enniskillen continued to launch wave after wave of attack but these were met with a series of good tackling from the whole team with special mention to Gary Walker and the veteran Richard Robinson. Second Row, Matt Dempster was sin binned for killing the ball which made for a tense finale as Antrim saw the game out with 14 men.
In the dying embers of the game, David McKee made yet another trademark burst from his own 22 metre, sidestepping and barging his way through several tackles as far as the Enniskillen half only to be stopped by a cluster of players.
Antrim saw the game out and advanced to the next round as the score finished at 15-5.
Coach Smyth was once again delighted with the result in a game which put a different test to his players. Every player had worked their socks off for the result. He enjoyed his team’s work rate against a much bigger and physical side and pull out one of the best results he has enjoyed at the club. Coach Smyth commended his player’s bravery and awarded Ben Phelps the MB Hire Man of the Match award for both his attacking and defensive abilities when it mattered most, despite playing with a broken nose for much of the game. Special mention went to Dave Kenning who ran Phelps a close second for the award as Smyth encouraged all players to enjoy their evenings as a reward and be ready for training this week ahead of next week’s away fixture to Malone.
Antrim RFC Notes: I XVII 15 v Enniskillen RFC III XVII 5 (MCCambley Cup) Report + Action Shots!!!!!!!!!
McCambley Cup First Round