Enniskillen made it two from two on their trips to North Down in the Town’s Cup season and wait now on the Quarter Final draw after a superb victory on Saturday.
‘Skins got off to a great start after they recovered the opening kick-off, but despite an early penalty chance could not add points to back up some wonderful handling and offloading, keeping the ball alive between forwards and backs. Unfortunately for Enniskillen no.8 Jamie Johnston was a touch unlucky to be shown a yellow card after just seven minutes for a dangerous tackle, when there was certainly no malice intended, but ‘Skins coped well, denied Bangor any opportunity to score and indeed continued to take the game to their hosts.
For twenty minutes the game was played at pace by ‘Skins who rarely had to retreat into their own half as the forwards carried the ball at Bangor, setting up some good quick ball for the backs but when Bangor did manage to break after twenty-four minutes it was skipper Alan Wilkinson with a last ditch tackle to prevent a score. Bangor clawed their way into the game after this foray into ‘Skins territory and there was a genuine fear among those present that ‘Skins would pay dearly for not converting their early dominance into points, and shortly after the fears looked to have become a reality when Bangor took an easy penalty chance to lead 3 – 0 with thirty-three minutes gone.
‘Skins however responded well and again set about their hosts, with the engine room of Cathal McGarry and David Buchanon carrying the ball well, ably supported by the backrow of Johnston, Hazlit Brian and Gavin Parke, and were eventually rewarded with an equalising penalty from James McIntyre two minutes before half time.
The game was well and truly grabbed by the scruff of the neck from the kick-off to start the second period as ‘Skins raced to the Bangor line through the forwards, with front rowers Ryan Cathcart and Gareth Beatty both involved. Once again the ball was recycled quickly and Ricky Connor fed his backline, who continued to move it quickly until Mark O’Shea entered the line at pace to squeeze home in the corner. McIntyre’s conversion fell short, but ‘Skins had managed to take an 8 – 3 lead.
Bangor were stung into action and drove at ‘Skins but were unable to break free of an excellent ‘Skins defensive line, which culminated in a terrific goal line stand with ten minutes of the half gone.
Again some apprehension crept in among the watching spectators who were anxious to see ‘Skins add a second score to take the lead beyond a converted try, and ‘Skins tried had to oblige with some excellent passages of continuity between forwards and backs with great handling in the ever worsening rainy conditions. A number of half chances arose and Trevor Whitaker on two occasions managed to show some dazzling footwork coming off his wing, but just when it seemed that the door would just not open wide enough for ‘Skins the score came after half-an-hour.
More excellent defence led to the score with centres, Wilkinson and Nigel Johnston, flooding the midfield and preventing their opposite numbers from getting the ball wide, but it was McIntyre with an interception deep in his own half who set up the score. He carried to halfway and realising he wasn’t going the whole way found the ever willing Ally Duncan in support to carry the ball into the Bangor “22”. With the defence flooding back, the support was there quickly and scrum half Connor managed to get his hands on the ball and score the crucial try.
Being a cup game, ‘Skins had the luxury of resting two of their less experienced players for the closing stages but both McGarry and Alan Ferguson can be proud of their performances, which over the past few weeks has created a real competition for places, particularly among those players who, for various reasons, have missed recent games.
With a break this week in the fixture schedule, ‘Skins have to use it to recharge the batteries and focus on two home league ties against top of the table Donaghadee, coached by Fermanagh’s own Jimmy McCoy, and then Carrick, before a quarter-final tie in the cup.
Team: Alan Ferguson, Ryan Cathcart, Gareth Beatty, Cathal McGarry, David Buchanon, Hazlit Brian, Gavin Parke, Jamie Johnston, Ricky Connor, James McIntyre, Ally Duncan, Alan Wilkinson (capt), Nigel Johnston, Trevor Whitaker, Mark O’Shea. Subs: Richard Beatty, John Courtney.
2nd XV – Home – Armagh II
Mini-Rugby – Home – Letterkenny