Enniskillen 1st XV 31
Carrick 1st XV 5
With a superb display in their final league game of the season on Tuesday night at Mullaghmeen, Enniskillen secured a 2nd place league finish with an unprecedented 31-5 bonus point win at home against league winners Carrickfergus, allowing them to leapfrog Coleraine and set up a promotion play off against Ards RFC who sit at the bottom of Qualifying One. Enniskillen knew exactly what was required going into the fixture but undoubtedly the rest of the province thought it was out of their reach, especially given the disruptive effects of going into a game seeking a high score.
It was clear from the kick off Carrick were not just here to stroll through their last game of the season, seeming to have a full strength team out and looking prepared for a battle. Skins weathered the early attack from the visitors well and looked extremely composed in defence while defending in their own half. Due to infringements at the breakdown Carrick began to gift Skins penalties and Chris McVitty at outhalf duly pinned them back in their own half. A couple of nicely worked line outs to Richie Johnston and mauls inside the Carrick 22 metre line undoubtedly had Carrick feeling the pressure but they held out admirably and the ball was held up over the line twice. It was the scrum which eventually yielded first blood with a solid drive on the Carrick 5 metre line followed by a powerful pick by Jamie Johnston who fended off multiple tackles to cross the line, converted by McVitty to go 7-0 up.
Skins were back in the Carrick half shortly after and the forwards were carrying well and forcing a big defensive effort from the visitors, soon resulting in a yellow card for the Carrick prop who was deemed to have illegally disrupted the ruck. Skins then set up a line out and maul just inside the 22, patiently battering the defence before Gavin Warrington crossed the line from a metre out with a pick and drive from the back of the ruck, again converted by McVitty.
Enniskillen continued to play territory very well, McVitty at 10 was expertly aware of space in behind the chasing Carrick line, as were Finlay and Wilkinson who placed some nicely worked kicks to touch to keep the visitors on the back foot. Enniskillen had to withstand another period of Carrick attack but again the defence was well constructed and the tackling clinical from the home side. After turning over ball on the half way line Skins returned to scoring ways as James Ferguson, playing at scrum half on the day, sniped from the back of a ruck and broke free down the blind side to score under the posts, converted to extend the lead to 21-0 going into the end of the first half.
The halftime team talk no doubt emphasised the need for patience and Enniskillen remained resolute into the 2nd half. The scrummaging contest was a real battle and Skins ability in this area shone when required, the front row of Warrington, Cathcart and Beatty turning over ball inside the Carrick half to kick off some excellent attacking phases that ended with the bonus point try: some slick hands through the backline following some strong forward carrying found Ashley Finlay who drew the fullback and put away Steve Neill to put Skins 26-0 up.
With the result now almost confirmed Carrick’s frustration was evident and some scuffling broke out on the half way which saw Richie Johnston get 10 minutes in the sin bin. Skins, now pinned in their 22, continued to defend well and held their own at the scrum a man down to eventually exit and work their way back into the Carrick half in another composed display of defence. After a lengthy period of play on the half way Carrick started to gain good ground out wide and the ball found their right winger who broke down the the blind side and touched down in the corner to get Carrick on the scoreboard.
Skins had the last say however as they set up a line out and maul inside the opposition 22 metre line and forced their way over the Carrick line, only to be held up. From the scrum Skins reasserted themselves and the forwards bombarded the defence before sending the ball out wide to Steve Neill who crossed in the corner for his 2nd try, unconverted and ending the contest 31-5.
It has been a fantastic season for Norman Richmond and the 1st XV, particularly this last few weeks which not only featured a Town’s Cup Final but has also witnessed 4 league victories in 10 days. On Saturday Skins travel away to Ards and attempt to finally return to Qualifying One after 6 years of Q2 Rugby.