Grosvenor I XV – 5 v Enniskillen I XV & Enniskillen II XV 0 v Omagh II XV 15

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In terrible playing conditions “Skins got their opening victory of the season in a hard fought battle in Belfast against newly promoted Grosvenor, the hosts’ first league defeat in almost two seasons.

The home side showed the qualities that got them promoted with a well drilled forward pack and quick backs in the opening exchanges despite the weather and posted the first try on fifteen minutes. In truth whilst the backline were quick missed “Skins tackles in midfield set the move in motion and it was well finished by the left wing. The missed conversion gave Grosvenor a welcome 5-0 start.

The try highlighted “Skins problems in the first half, with too many first up tackles missing. The constant rain helped spoil the quality of rugby on show with handling at a premium and the game was littered with errors. “Skins looked lethargic in the first period and although in their own territory they showed a little more game management with some clever kicking for position, in attack the options taken again looked suspect.

On the stroke of half time Grosvenor missed a golden opportunity to increase their lead when “Skins firstly held them out after a period of concerted pressure and then a relatively simple penalty kick was pushed wide.

The second half brought little relief from the rain, and for fifteen minutes the pattern remained the same, with “Skins looking like they were going to go home frustrated. However after about fifteen minutes it seemed that the side woke up and realised that the game was there for the taking, and the pack in particular started to control the ball better.

The penalty count was evening itself out and on twenty-five minutes the referee showed a yellow card to Grosvenor’s open side for one team infringement too many and “Skins took full advantage when after half-an-hour John Courtney touched the ball down ending a period of concerted pressure in the hosts “22”, as the team showed great patience and ball retention, qualities missing earlier in the match. Clinton Brown added the conversion to give “Skins a valuable lead.”

“Skins then demonstrated great resolve to hold onto the lead, restricting Grosvenor to one penalty opportunity with three minutes remaining, to record a valuable victory.

Once again the season is disrupted with “Skins facing a lay-off owing to a bye in the Junior Cup, before returning to their first home game of the season when they host Ballynahinch 2nds in the newly formed Ulster Conference Two.

Enniskillen II XV 0 v Omagh II XV 15

Skins played their first home game of the season against Omagh last Saturday, with a side that showed an incredible eight changes from the previous week.

The disruption to the side showed in the early stages with a number of unforced errors and the concession of a soft penalty to the visitors.

Omagh had the wind advantage in the first half and their outhalf used this cleverly to kick his forwards into position and when they were awarded a penalty shortly after taking the lead they kicked to the corner and mauled over in traditional style.

Worse was to follow after thirty minutes when Omagh scored a good try from a scrum, putting their full-back over under the posts without a hand laid on him for a converted try.

Skins had two relatively straightforward penalty chances before half time but neither threatened the posts and a calamitous first half ended with Skins fifteen points down and in a state of some disorder.

The second half saw Skins come more into the game and actually trying to play some rugby. They used the maul to some effect and ended up with the better scrum but even when the referee finally lost patience with two serial-offending Omagh forwards the home side could not make it count. Darren Watson was held up over the line but that was as close as it got.

A large amount of possession was won in the second half but squandered by wrong options, unforced errors and a tendency to press the panic button when a cool head was required. Skins will have to regroup after this and look at the lessons to be learned.

John Arnold was easily the best forward on display with Stevie Neill standing out in the back line, but it is simply not possible for some of the players to compete at this level with their current level of fitness and technical ability. Progress can be made by a commitment to several weeks hard collective training.

Pictures courtesy of Linda Beatty

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