Portadown 1st XV 13
Enniskillen 1st XV 33
Enniskillen 1st XV took a momentous step forward last weekend in their quest for a top four league finish as they claimed an unprecedented bonus point win away to Portadown, overtaking them to slot into fourth place with only one league game remaining.
It was a dry, calm day at Portadown and the surface was excellent given the recent rainfall. The game did not start well for Skins as Portadown spread the ball wide to their winger from a line out on the half way and scored in the corner to take an early 7-0 lead. Skins put the slip up behind them and looked to reassert themselves in the game. The Portadown forwards carried hard at the Skins defensive line and their backs looked threatening but Enniskillen weathered the early storm with some determined defence; Buchanan leading from the front and flankers Parke and Lee putting in a solid tackling display. The scrum made a major difference in the battle for possession as Skins were extremely dominant; the front row of Ferguson, Cathcart, Beatty and Steven Fox in rotation all claimed a number of penalties and turned over possession frequently. Portadown did well to disrupt the Enniskillen line out to thwart some early attack but the first score came for Skins 25 minutes in from a scrum on the Portadown 5 metre line. Following continued collapsed scrums from the home side, the Portadown prop saw a yellow card and Enniskillen drove over the line from the resultant scrum for Kaine Holden to touch down, unconverted to bring the score to 7-5.
It was an arm wrestle to the end of the half as both sides sought territory and the forward packs traded blows. Portadown tested Skins with some kicks in behind the defence but Finlay at fullback was typically solid and dealt with the threat well.
The second half quickly became a lively affair as just 3 minutes in Lendrum received the ball off a line out in the Portadown half and hit Rob Baloucoune on a scything run; the scramble defence was good but Finlay was in support and took the offload, then finding Monteith who crossed the line for a try to go 12-7 up.
The home side were undeterred as they worked their way back into the Skins half and began to exploit some indiscipline from the Fermanagh men. First for creeping offside and then for an infringement at the ruck, Portadown took a 13-12 lead approaching the 60 minute mark after being awarded two consecutive penalties. Enniskillen settled themselves and worked their way back into the Portadown half from the restart. A red card for the Portadown hooker for stamping at the ruck had Skins down near the Portadown try line once again and another devastating scrum claimed the penalty try, converted by Lendrum to go 19-13 up.
Enniskillen moved the ball confidently now and the back line looked dangerous. Following some strong carries from Lee and Johnston the ball went wide to Baloucoune who broke down the wing just inside the Portadown half with Finlay in support who finished in the corner for the bonus point try, converted to go 26-13 up.
A penalty to Enniskillen following the restart for an infringement around the ruck allowed Lendrum to pin the home side back near their try line once again. The forwards put together some short range carries off the line out before a linebreak and offload saw Richie Willis power over the line for the final try, converted to go 33-13 up.
It was a very memorable win for Enniskillen whose victories on Portadown soil are few and far between. It’s a testament to the development of the side who seem to have clicked now at this critical time of the season. A home derby match against Clogher this Saturday is a fitting way to end the league season and attempt a top four finish, followed next week by the highly anticipated Town’s Cup semi final.
Queens 3XV 13
Enniskillen 2XV 17
After a brief period off the top spot, Skins 2nd XV returned to their number one slot in the league after a hard fought battle against an organised and resilient Queens team.
The young Skins side started off on the back foot barely getting outside of their own half for the first 40 minutes. After 20 minutes solid defending the QUB side found a way through the Skins line and got early points on the board. The Enniskillen men, however, kept the heads up and soon fought back with some brilliant play from the forwards, with Andrew ‘Tufty’ Crawford and Bruce crashing the ball up to the QUB 22, when Maguire dinked the ball up and over the opposition defensive line, ran through and pounced on the ball scoring a well deserved try, unfortunately missing the conversion leaving things at 7-5.
The Queens’ side had one final attack before half time, in which Thornton unaware of the offside rule, gave away a penalty, giving the home team another 3 points leaving things 10-5 at half time.
The Enniskillen men did not worry as the experience they had on the bench was phenomenal. Veteran scrummager, Richard Beaty, was putting in an effortless performance both on and off the pitch. Captain Mark O’Shea delivered some inspirational words at half time to lift the energy of the whole team. Skins upped the tempo now and shortly afterwards Lewis Millar was placing the ball over the try line with the score now 10-10.
After a few more errors from the Enniskillen side, the Queens number 13 broke through the defensive line a number of times, but was well dealt with by the covering wingers McVitty and Rutledge. Eventually the break came for queens when a penalty was given away in front of the posts, leaving the score at 13-10 coming into the closing minutes.
Enniskillen, knowing this was a must win game, were throwing everything they had at the energetic queens team, but Chris Henry was to make the difference after some lovely passing play from the partnership of O’Shea and Hendy had Henry crossing the line with 79minutes on the clock, Teague whom had a splendid performance, converted the try with ease.
The Queens restart was the final play of the game and Enniskillen kicked to touch to end the contest as the final whistle blew and the crowd went wild.
The 2nd XV are now sitting top of the table knowing a promotion opportunity is in their hands if they win their next home match, scheduled to Dungannon on the 25th of March.