Enniskillen Girls U12s Victorious at The Aviva Stadium
Saturday April 30th was a huge day for Enniskillen U12 Girls Rugby Team as they travelled to The Aviva Stadium in Dublin. The ERFC team had been specially chosen to represent Ulster in an all Ireland invitation tournament. The four other teams from across the regions of Ireland were Ballina, Fethard, UL Bohemian and Wicklow.
An early departure from Enniskillen brought the team and supporters safely to The Aviva for registration and pre-tournament briefings. Then, all the teams were announced onto the pitch, one by one, entering by the tunnel. A once-in-a-lifetime moment for the girls.
Enniskillen’s first match was against Ballina. After a few initial rucks that sucked in players, the Ballina winger suddenly got the ball with half a pitch of space, opposed only by Hollie Cashel for Skins. In a moment that set the bar for the rest of the day, Hollie targeted the winger and advanced into a low thumping tackle that sent her opponent backwards. From then on, Skins dominated. Tries from Alanah Brennan and Sophie Barrett sealing a first match win.
Next up, UL Bohemian. Again, Skins came out fast with Nikki Johnston playing superbly at scrum half, following the ball and keeping the tempo going with quick feeds from each breakdown. This time Moyà Hill shone in midfield, handing off opponents to score more than once, both through the middle and round the outside, securing another win.
Next up was Wicklow, undefeated in two years. A big test for Skins. With both teams playing fantastic rugby, the crowd enjoyed a great spectacle. The two teams put on a breathless display of open, running rugby. Jodie Crawford, Roisin Hehar, Mollie Miller and Cheyenne Abbott combined time and again, making ground on each ball carry and always finding an offload out of the tackle to keep play moving. Caitlin Leonard, as she has done all season, again put on a display of exemplary ball jackaling, getting over the ball at the breakdown and stealing possession time and again. Tries from Alannah Brennan and Sophie Barrett again kept Skins in contention, but Wicklow matched them try for try. The second half started with both teams having all to play for. However, the power and determination of Skins soon began to dominate. Teah McKeown and Amy Donald found gaps with ball in hand, sucking in defenders and creating space which Alanah Brennan exploited with clinical side-stepping and speed. Then came the highlight of the day as Roisin Hehar picked up possession 15 metres out and went into contact. Pumping her legs she kept going and, despite 3 opposition defenders desperately all trying to pull her down, Roisin went all the way to score a magnificent try in the corner. Stretching away by 3 tries the match belonged to Skins. In the final few minutes an innocuous maul came to ground, and unfortunately Nikki Johnston fell under bodies. With dizziness and worrying back pain, The Aviva medical staff were superb in stabilising Nikki and taking her to the medical room.
So the final match, against Fethard. With Nikki Johnston still in the medical room, Skins reorganised and kicked off. Fethard gathered to feed their tall centre who ran through and scored. Skins restarted, and Sophie Barrett returned the favour, splitting the midfield and scoring. Fethard restarted and once again, their big centre split the Skins defence to score. With the restart, again, Sophie Barrett refused to be stopped and levelled the match. At the restart Skins were now ready, and this time the defensive line came up together. A crunching tackle from Sophie Barrett on the Fethard centre knocked her back. From then on, the Skins tackling was awesome, and soon their dominance and aggression began to tell. Further tries from Alanah Brennan, and the now rampaging Moyà Hill saw Skins home.
Played 4, won 4. A great festival of rugby and a fantastic experience for all the girls involved.
The compliments from opposition coaches were a testament to the superb attitude and skill of the ERFC team. The girls represented Ulster brilliantly, and were a huge credit to Enniskillen Rugby Club and, of course, themselves.
After a brief celebration and team photo, thoughts quickly turned to Nikki Johnston who had been taken to hospital. After observation and X-rays, Nikki received the all clear and her mum and granddad brought her safely home late in the evening. We all wish Nikki a speedy recovery.
Having already played at The Kingspan in front of full house during the half-time of an Ulster match, and now at The Aviva Stadium, it’s been an amazing season for an U12s team that did not exist at the start of the season. The future of girls, and women’s rugby at ERFC is looking bright. Walking out of the tunnel at The Aviva may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the girls, but there may yet be a few who repeat the experience in years to come, but this time wearing a green jersey.
Photo 1: Sophie Barrett making another charging run through midfield.
Photo 2: Line-out in The Aviva Stadium
Photo 3: The U12s Team