Enniskillen Rugby I XV 39 v Carrick Rugby I XV 10 + Bangor Rugby II XV 20 v Enniskillen II XV 34

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Enniskillen sent out a message that they are still going to have a say in the league race and that they are looking forward to next week’s challenge in the Town’s Cup Quarter-Final at Clogher Valley, with this performance and an emphatic bonus point win over Carrick who prior to kick-off were sitting above them in the table.

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It didn’t always look as flattering as it turned out as ‘Skins squandered a great opportunity on the Carrick line in the opening minutes, conceding a penalty, and then missing a penalty chance of their own shortly after to give the small band of supporters an overwhelming sense of deja vu, given the start the previous Saturday.

However on nine minutes James McIntyre made amends as he kicked ‘Skins into a lead and then doubled the score three minutes later.

‘Skins were playing all the rugby with the forwards’ set piece setting up excellent field position and possession. After twenty minutes it looked like ‘Skins had created the opening try. The backrow trio of Gavin Parke, Hazlit Brian and Jamie Johnston were once again immense and twice in quick succession the forwards secured turnover ball to put ‘Skins on the front foot. Skipper Alan Wilkinson then chipped ahead and the bounce looked to have favoured him as the regained possession and fell forward, stretching for the line as he was tackled, but the referee rather harshly deemed the action as a “double movement” and awarded the penalty to the visitors.

Enniskillen were not to be outdone and continued to press, with the offloading and continuity a joy to watch. Thirty minutes had passed before the forwards again took the game right to the Carrick line, and it was Jamie Johnston who powered over for the try, which McIntyre converted, to give ‘Skins a 13 – 0 lead at halftime.

Carrick came out of the blocks from the kick off and caught ‘Skins on their heels and reduced the lead with a penalty in the first minute, but ‘Skins reacted well and soon increased the lead. Nigel Johnston had a storming run from his own half only to be dragged down close to the Carrick line. The ball spilled loose and with ‘Skins on the front foot the referee gave a penalty try for the defender playing the ball on the ground. McIntyre added the points from in front of the posts for a 20 – 3 lead.

‘Skins were by this stage running rampant and with fifteen minutes on the clock were involved in one the best passages of rugby seen at Mullaghmeen for some time. From their own goal line the ball was carried through many phases involving forwards and backs alike, the offloading and handling a joy to watch. This passage did not end in a score, but three minutes later the third try came. McIntyre sold a great dummy, stepped past his opposite number and fed Wilkinson coming at a great angle for the score.

Four minutes later and the bonus point try arrived. Mark O’Shea set things rolling with a great run on the outside beating men for pace, before he fed Wilkinson who in turn fed Trevor Whitaker, and “The Crazy Peach” crossed for a well deserved try. McIntyre added the conversion and ‘Skins lead was pushed out to 32 – 5 entering the final quarter.

‘Skins looked to be in complete control, but suddenly the visitors started getting penalties, as the referee looked to even up the contest, that enabled them to exert some pressure and just short of the half hour mark they looked to be in for the score only for an excellent goal line tackle from Brian to knock the ball carrier back beyond the line. Two minutes later Michael Law, returning to first team action after a lengthy absence due to injury, saw the referee’s yellow card which was harsh to say the least. From the resultant penalty Carrick managed to find a gap and squeezed over for the try, and a disputed conversion, to pull the score back to 32 – 10.

Disaster then struck with five minutes remaining when Ryan Cathcart, who was having yet another excellent game, was lost to the game with a broken leg. Carrick had suffered an injury of their own, and with the ridiculous ruling that teams cannot field substitutes in the league, the last five minutes were played fourteen versus thirteen!

‘Skins were not finished however and despite being a man down finished the game strongly, adding a fifth try for good measure, with skipper Wilkinson getting his second of the game, and McIntyre his fourth conversion to leave the final score 39 – 10.

This was ‘Skins at probably their best, playing a brand of rugby that is pleasing on the eye, with forwards and backs combining so well that at times it is hard to pick out which is which. This does not detract from the forwards main job of securing possession and the scrum in particular has been very effective in recent weeks. Whilst the backrow has stood out with their foraging in the loose the front five have been equally strong and the loss of Cathcart will be a blow.

Behind the forwards Ricky Connor has been quietly effective and the backline are showing some strong running and the belief is coming that this has the makings of a great end of season run-in with eight league games remaining and looking forward to the cup encounter with neighbours Clogher Valley next week, which should prove a real test and a measure of how things have progressed this season under coach Patrick Garat.

Apart from the injury to Ryan Cathcart, and the best wishes of everyone involved at Enniskillen RFC go to him for a speedy recovery, the only disappointing aspect to Saturday’s game was the lack of numbers supporting the team. The brand of rugby being played deserves a better viewing audience and it is hoped that people will realise that there is a rugby team in Fermanagh, playing some good rugby and will come out to support them during the remainder of the season, starting with the trip to Clogher Valley this Saturday!

Team: Alan Ferguson, Ryan Cathcart, Gareth Beatty, Cathal McGarry, David Buchanan, Gavin Parke, Hazlit Brian, Jamie Johnston, Ricky Connor, James McIntyre, Trevor Whitaker, Alan Wilkinson, Nigel Johnston, Michael Law, Mark O’Shea.

Bangor 2 20 Enniskillen 2 34

A much- changed Skins side made the long journey to the County Down coast for a potentially- difficult Crawford Cup match. Captain Daniel Allister was forced to find six players from last weeks game and it showed early on. It was Bangor , playing with the wind, who struck first with an early penalty. Most of the play took place in the Skins half which was dangerous as the referee only had eyes for Skins’ infringements. Skins didn’t help themselves by making numerous mistakes and failing to make a number of first-up tackles. Bangor increased their lead with a try from their outhalf who cut through under the posts. He tacked on a penalty to leave the half-time score 13-0.

Skins turned round and on the back of an impressive scrum, took play deep into opposition territory and following some good driving play , Gavin Warrington used his strength to score a try which was converted. This was followed by a fine individual effort by the captain who emerged from a forest of bodies to scuttle in under the posts. There followed a period of Skins’ control operating from solid set-pieces and producing some good driving play. Allister kicked another penalty to make it 17-13. Bangor to their credit came storming back and scored a try in the corner which was converted with a fine kick. The home side now had their tails up and it was a defining moment for Skins. Fortunately they scored next when Gareth Donaldson kicked ahead and the redoubtable Warrington showed a fine turn of speed to win the race for the touch down. Peter Allen finished off a good backs move for the fourth try and Scott Burrell completed the scoring with a fine individual effort. Bangor, despite being allowed twelve minutes of “injury” time didn’t look like scoring and the visitors deserved their place in the quarter-final. Credit to all who stepped up to the side on Saturday.

1st XV – Away – Clogher Valley – Towns Cup QF
2nd XV – Home – Portadown II

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