NOTES/REPORTS : Enniskillen 1s, U18 Girls, U16s Boys, Ladies 1s

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I LOVE IT [youtube 9GFI6Rf-IkI] Yeah they all won, lets do it again!


On Saturday last Enniskillen travelled to Kerr Park Holywood for this Qualifying League encounter, anxious to reverse their poor run of performances during February, and hopefully return to winning ways. Although the season’s toll of injuries reflected on the team selection, club coach Norman Richmond was anxious to demonstrate how the strength of his extended squad could now deal with these inevitable circumstances that arise during the course of a rugby season. Enniskillen fielded with three changes in the starting line-up from the team that was narrowly beaten by Carrickfergus the previous week. Nicky Finlay returned to the out half position and Nathan Richmond slotted into the centre to partner Alan Wilkinson. Richard Beatty resumed tight head duties in place of Mark Hood, who was unavailable. Robert Connor made his third start of the season for Enniskillen on the left wing. After much soul searching during the week the seventeen players who travelled to Holywood were focused on proving they were much better than recent results would suggest.

In stark contrast to the previous week the game was played in near perfect conditions with a sight wind favouring the home side during the first period. Holywood, having won the toss, opted to kick-off to the visitors. Enniskillen displayed immediate intent, controlling possession for the opening ten minutes, playing the game in the opposition half. Holywood’s defence was resolute from the start in their determination to thwart any attempts by the opposition to play the game in their half. Any notions the visitors may have had about bossing proceedings for the afternoon were abruptly allayed, when with just six minutes gone Holywood efficiently moved the ball along their back line, having overturned possession at a ruck just inside the Enniskillen half. Their left wing stepped inside the defence and hacked the ball towards the visitor’s try line. Fortunately for Skins the referee adjudged the ball had crossed the dead ball line just before it had been touched down.

This proved to be the wake up call Johnston’s men required. From the re-start they controlled possession, driving deep into the opposition half with a series of well-executed rucks, reflecting a level of composure that had been missing from recent performances.

Holywood did eventually concede a penalty for an offside infringement in the seventeenth minute and with fast ball from the resulting line-out Alan Wilkinson cut through the home cover to touch down for the opening score of the afternoon.

The Skins in the front row of Stephen Fox, Ryan Cathcart, Richard Beatty, and Danny Maguire when required, controlled proceedings at scrum time, and with several strikes against the head they made it difficult for the Holywood tight eight to establish any foothold in the game. The home side did continue to test the Enniskillen back three of Finlay, Connor and O’Callaghan with a series of high balls, with the help of a very unpredictable wind. The three proved well able to deal with these numerous aerial onslaughts, and on several occasions effectively counter attacked from deep within their own half. In the thirty-seventh minute Ashley Finlay gathered cleanly before he released Robert Connor in space who, having broke out of his own twenty-two, sprinted over fifty metres to set up an Enniskillen attack down the left flank. Having forced Holywood to concede a line-out the visitor’s scrum-half, Paddy McCreery, having broke through the defensive cover passed to Jamie Johnston who ran twenty metres to claim the second touch down of the game. Nick Finlay subsequently obliged with a successful conversion.

Shortly after the re-start David Buchannon gathered possession just inside his own half after a mix-up in the home side attack and after evading several tackle attempts to break clear decided to sprint to the line to register Enniskillen’s third try of the afternoon.

Finlay’s conversion left the visitors nineteen points ahead at the interval.

Enniskillen continued controlling possession in the second half, playing a wide expansive game at every opportunity. They enjoyed a period of dominance, building phases and protecting possession. Then, in the forty-ninth minute, after a series of controlled phases they were awarded a five metre scrum. The ball was again quickly moved to Alan Wilkinson at first centre who, having side stepped the home side cover, crossed the line to score Enniskillen’s fourth try of the game, thus securing the bonus point and almost certainly a well needed victory.

Enniskillen’s level of intensity at the breakdown reflected their commitment and desire to control proceedings. They continued to control the scrums and to drive at the opposition defence. Their persistence paid off again in the fifty-sixth minute, when Jamie Johnston, who played a captain’s role throughout, popped up in support to finish off a well worked move to put the contest beyond any doubt.

Holywood to their credit did not relent in their efforts to cross the visitor’s line.

From the re-start both packs tried to control territory, with neither side managing to establish dominance. The final quarter of the game, for the most part, being played between the two twenty-two metre lines. Hollywood’s efforts eventually paid off when in the final minutes reduced arrears by registering an unconverted try.

The Enniskillen back row of Johnston, Cadden and Holden excelled in the loose throughout, and as hard as Holywood tried to claw their way back into the game in the second period their efforts were constantly frustrated by the visitor’s resolute defence.

The Enniskillen players, who had been bitterly disappointed with their recent performances, were visibly relieved to have returned to winning ways and can now look forward with confidence to the season’s remaining fixtures. Their focus of attention now moves to next Saturday and a home encounter with Grosvenor, for the first of the five remaining league encounters.

Belfast Harlequins U18 Girls 0
Enniskillen RFC U18 Girls 48

On Wednesday last a bus load of Enniskillen Rugby Club’s U18 girls travelled up to Belfast to face the aristocrats of Ulster Rugby in the quarter final of the Girls Youth Cup, Belfast Harlequins. This was a team that Skins narrowly beat in the final of the same Cup competition last season.

Enniskillen travelled with confidence, despite missing the pace of Rebecca Pennell in the backs and the strong running of Alison Glass in the forwards. The young Fermanagh women however, had a point to prove after reports that Quins were seeking revenge for the defeat last season.

If there was a point to prove, Skins didn’t waste any time in proving it! Skins kicked off deep into the Harlequins half, and when the Belfast outfit had taken the ball into contact several times they decided to spread the ball out wide, whilst inside their own 22. Lucy Barr, who has taken like a duck to water with her recent convert to the inside centre position, smelled an opportunity and plucked the Quins pass from the air to run in under the posts to score Skins first of many tries, and set the tone for the whole game. Kathryn Dane added the conversion to put Skins 7-0 up inside the first few minutes.

Quins restart kick landed on Claire Boles who got her first chance in four months to run in anger after a shoulder injury had kept her out. She grabbed this opportunity with both hands, smashing through one would-be defender and fending another before off loading to her sister Katie, who rode one tackle and then went to ground to set the ball up for her team. From here Skins marched up the pitch, using a combination of their strong running forwards and evasive backs. When the ball was shifted down the line after a flurry of offloads from Ellie Ingram, Lucy Barr and Hollie Bruce; Claire Boles found herself a few yards from the line for another opportunity she wasn’t going to squander, and after starting the move from the kick off, she finished it to bring the scores to 12-0. Dane was unlucky with the conversion.

Again Skins took the ball from the kick off and took it to the Quins line, but after some strong carries, the visitors lost the ball forward and allowed Harlequins a chance to attack with ball in hand. Although this need not have worried Skins as their defence was water-tight, and remained so for the duration of the game. Ingram organised the defensive line brilliantly, and Barr set the line speed for Skins in such a way that when Quins tried to pass they were under so much pressure they dropped the ball, and on the odd occasion they managed to get the ball wide, skins were so well organised that there was no space to exploit.

When Skins got the ball back, normal business was resumed. Again after strong carries from the likes of the Boles sisters, Alice Hurst, and Sophie Magwood the away team found themselves in their opponents 22. At this point, the industrious Abbie Parkinson burst onto the ball and crashed through the Quins defence to get a try that her performance and work rate throughout the match thoroughly deserved.

From here Skins kicked on to add two tries before the half, with Hollie Bruce scoring the first of her trademark Hollie Bruce scores, when she rounded the defence showing the winger a clean pair of heels to score in the corner. Dane couldn’t add the extras, but wasn’t long in bagging her first try of the match on the stroke of half time when she won the foot race to her own excellently placed box-kick right into the corner, diving on the ball to seal the five points and bring the half time score to 27-0 to the visitors.

The second half was not as clear cut as the first however. As most sides would, Skins struggled to keep up the huge level of intensity they had produced in the first half and allowed Harlequins a period of time to attack their line. Harlequins took this opportunity and built good phases close to the Skins line for around twenty minutes of the half, but they didn’t account for the incredible mental fortitude shown by Skins. Between Abbie Parkinson covering every blade of grass on the pitch, Alice Hurst making more choke tackles than Sean O’Brian could dream of making and Zoe Donaldson and Niamh Toolan making some last gasp and brave cover tackles, the home side couldn’t find a way over the line. To add insult to injury, when Skins eventually turned the ball over, their break was so quick and ruthless that it ended up with another Skins score. Kathryn Dane, who led from the front all night as a natural leader, put a high ball up which landed on the halfway line. The Harlequins full back covered it well and fielded the ball, only to be smashed by the on rushing Emma Shaw, and drop the ball. From there Skins shifted the ball wide to Zoe Donaldson, who put the foot down and nearly made it into the corner for a score, only to be tackled into touch metres from the line. From the ensuing lineout Quins tried to pass the ball about in their own 22, not learning from the first few minutes of the game, and Claire Boles pounced to punish them with a great intercept under the posts, Making Kathryn Dane’s kick much easier. She converted to bring the score to 34-0.

Skins were now finished absorbing pressure, and seemed to be determined to add to Harlequins’ misery. Whenever the Belfast side tried to kick to relieve pressure, Shaw plucked each high ball from the air and ran them back at Quins with interest. After one such kick return a loose ball fell at the feet of Kathryn Dane who is absolutely lethal in open, disrupted play. When she had finished slicing through the first line of defence like a hot knife through butter, she stepped the winger and the full back to score her second great try of the night. This one was under the posts so she could convert it as well.

Hollie Bruce rounded the night off with her second trademark try, this time managing to finish under the posts and after Dane’s conversion leave the score at 48-0 to the visiting team. A result which had coaches, parents, referees, spectators and Ulster Branch representatives purring.


Enniskillen 24
Ballymena RFC 5

Enniskillen RFC travelled to Magherafelt on Saturday to face Ballymena RFC in a Semi Final of the Ulster Branch Under-16s competition. This the penultimate match in a campaign that started last September and has seen the team compete against much larger clubs throughout the Province.

ERFC Youth Convenor Stuart McCrae gave credit to all involved and commented on the great effort that has seen huge success from this age group.

“Having secured the section two league title in early February all involved have put in a tremendous amount of work to improve their gameplay and work on weaker areas of game management, this level of commitment from young men who have the pressure of school exams and part time jobs is commendable.”

Due to the outcome being of such importance the game was to be played at a neutral venue however it still meant an early start for the trip up to Magherfelt for the 11am kick off, but a good warm up allowed the Skins players to start the game in a very positive manner, after five minutes from a strong scrum, scrum-half Josh Kyle spread the ball out and the backs and quickly found Tyler Millar who was playing on the wing and broke through to open the scoring with an unconverted try for a Five point lead.

The Ballymena team then started to use the strong wind, which allowed their half back pairing to kick and give their wingers the opportunity to chase into Enniskillen territory, but the defence was well organised with full back Owen McGovern taking control. However just before the half time break a fortunate bounce was gathered on the wing and the Antrim team equalized the score with an unconverted try.

The second half started in dramatic fashion after only two minutes when Connor Maguire broke from a ruck and slipped a pass to Jamie Kelly who found man of the match Eoin Cleary at center running a great line, and he offloaded to Millar for his second score on the left wing; the subsequent difficult conversion was slotted over by Jarlaith Maguire to give a seven point lead.

The next phase of play showed that the Fermanagh team can not only punish weak defenses but they can also protect their own line with some ferocious tackles going in from 1 to 15, and good work from the forwards allowed firstly out half Michael O’Hare, then Kyle to use their boots and the wind to relieve the pressure.

Ballymena should be commended for the way they faced the increasing line breaks from the larger Skins pack however the game plan reaped rewards when strike runners Kelly and Maguire found the spaces opening up as the Antrim side began to tire, after prop David Jenkins stole the ball and offloaded to Maguire the second row only needed to slip a short pass to Kelly who was at full pace and not to be denied going over under the posts, and having taken over the kicking duties he slotted over the conversion for the additional two and a fourteen point lead.

The next was a great solo effort when from a dominant scrum no. eight Kelly picked up from ten metres out and drove over for an unconverted score to bring the game to a brilliant conclusion for the Enniskillen lads and a convincing 24 to 5 point win.

These match reports can only give a brief outline of the play and those involved, however it must be recognized that rugby is a team sport and all the squad members must be congratulated for the efforts that they have put in so far this season, we have some star players yes but the whole team have developed tremendously this season and all at the club their friends and parents should be very proud of the way they have played and represented themselves, their club and the county.

Having made it to one final which will be played on April 4th to hopefully secure the All Ulster League Title, the youth teams now move on to the Ulster Cup campaign when Dromore RFC come to Mullaghmeem for an Under-16’s clash, and Monaghan RFC travel to face our Under-14’s. Both games will take place on the 21st March, 11am Kick Off. All support would be very much appreciated.


Enniskillen Ladies 10 v City of Derry Ladies 5

Enniskillen hosted fellow Ulster Cup finalist’s City of Derry in the Quarter Finals of the All Ireland Plate, where the home team kicked off in what would be a dramatic and close encounter.

There were numerous phases of strong carries from Sarah Teague, Collette McMorrow and Ashling Maguire who created line breaks and crash ball’s to draw in the opposition, allowing scrum half Kathryn Dane to filter the ball out through the newly formed backline of Eimear Corrigan, Noreen Nethercott and Alana McCaffrey. This backline was to take several forms throughout the game, with the first change coming when Corrigan moved to outside centre allowing Shauna Murphy her starting position after arriving late to the field after representing Fermanagh Ladies Gaelic earlier in the afternoon, an all round sports woman!

The first try of the half came from a penalty within the oppositions 22, Dane drew the defence and delayed a beautifully weighted pass to prop Maguire who used her strength to go over the line and score Enniskillen’s first points.

Enniskillen’s second try came from quick reactions and even quicker feet when Derry was awarded a scrum deep in their own half, just inside the 22. The scrum was under pressure from the Skins front row, were a fumble from the scrum half at the back strayed loose and was picked up by Dane who side stepped 3 defenders to add a second try to the score sheet.

The second half was mostly played in Enniskillen’s own half with little in the way of attacking play due to Derry’s excellent ball retention and counter rucking. A break from Nethercott early in the 2nd half was shut down early by Derry when Skins failed to support the darting runs of their vice captain.

Derry hammered at the Enniskillen try line and on 2 occasions they were held up, but after persistent and constant levels of attack, they produced well earned points on the board 20 minutes into the 2nd half when they crashed over in the corner. Their replacement number 8 was hard to contain and proved to be a real thorn in the side for Skins. Her strength at pace was hard to defend and with poor tackling it left her with too much room to gain advantage.

City of Derry pressed hard for an equaliser try in the final 15 minutes and continually battled Enniskillen’s defence but in the end it was the home sides defence and calm under pressure that sealed the victory.

A penalty in the final 2 minutes on Skins 22 awarded a scrum to City of Derry – which their number 8 would have relished running hard and scoring from – but this was not to be. Skins knew they had to step up in the scrums and the first resulted in a turn over ball against the head, followed very shortly by a collapsed front row. The re-set scrum was won by City of Derry who made a break down the blind side only to be put into touch by flanker Shauna McMorrow where the final whistle was blown and a triumphant success was awarded to the home team.

The final score was 10 – 5 to the home side who now progress to the semi final of the All Ireland Plate against Old Belvedere J1 this coming Sunday in Dublin.

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