Reports Enniskillen Rugby 1st XV v Randalstown, U18 Girls Final

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Enniskillen continued from Wednesday night’s midweek 14-10 victory over Lisburn with a bonus point win over Randalstown at home on Saturday, their fourth consecutive league win in what has been a stunning March recovery, additionally it was an excellent performance against a side who were ahead on league points prior to the encounter, and which featured a much more clinical Skins exhibition. The contest was a perfect showcase for aspects of Enniskillen’s game which have improved over the recent month following a dismal February, the Scrum and line out functioned well in attack and proved hugely disruptive when in defence, the tactical kicking along with the kick chase was much more purposeful where it previously lacked intent and the rucking from the forward pack was much more aggressive and effectively maintained possession throughout. Coach Norman Richmond was clearly pleased with the display delivered for the final home fixture.
“Overall I was very pleased with this strong and clinical performance from the players on Saturday as we played our last league game for the season at Mullaghmeen. Any spectators who were there certainly saw a performance which proves that this is a very formidable team with some excellent potential to go forward within the last 2 league games and more importantly into next season.”
From the start Enniskillen showed poise and patience, the kick off calmly collected by Kaine Holden, offloading to Jamie Johnston for the crash ball, followed by a nicely placed kick from Nick Finlay into touch on the half, the ensuing line out well executed and sent out the back line to test the Randalstown defence; Randalstown in turn showed they weren’t just there to make up the numbers, putting in an unwavering defensive effort throughout the game.
There were good phases from both sides in the early exchanges in the midfield, Ashley Finlay’s counter attack proved a handful for the visiting defence and made good ground into the opposition half, then a powerful carry from centre Alan Wilkinson forced a breakdown infringement from Randalstown, and a nicely struck penalty from Chris McVitty followed for three points.
The visitors kept Enniskillen well pinned in their own half from the restart but struggled to capitalise as the Enniskillen scrum seemed to be in the ascendency, the front row of Mark Hood, Ryan Cathcart and Steven Fox taking two opposition balls against the head in the early stages, although Randalstown did manage to come away with 3 points following an unfortunate breakdown penalty inside the Enniskillen 22 metre line.
A try still eluded Enniskillen as penalties crept in on a few occasions when the home side were close to crossing the line, particularly around the ruck which is always a highly aggressive encounter, and perhaps Enniskillen were intent on signalling they refused to be bullied in this area. The forwards and backs continued to link together well in attack with breaks from Wilkinson, Nathan Richmond and Ashley Finlay in the backline combining well with powerful runs from Johnston, David Buchanan and Ricky Lee in the forwards. The pressure deep in the Randalstown half eventually paid dividends when another penalty was awarded and McVitty put the home side back in the lead with a further 3 points.
Randalstown enjoyed some possession now for a period but the Enniskillen defence was tenacious, with Nick Finlay marshalling the back line well and huge hits coming in across the board from Lee, Cadden and Wilkinson with Jack Harte the usual menace at the breakdown; keeping the contest at 6-3 for the end of the first half.
Enniskillen were unrelenting from the second half restart, forcing a knock on from Randalstown and then offering a huge drive in the following scrum, giving the backs good front foot ball for wingers Donagh O’Callaghan and then Ashley Finlay to put Skins deep in opposition territory. Then following some good phases inside the 22 an eventual scrum on the 5 metre line gave Enniskillen the perfect base to mount an attack; Number Eight Ricky Lee picked from the back and offloaded dexterously to Paddy McCleery who put Ashley Finlay in for a score in the corner, wonderfully converted by McVitty to leave the score 13-3.
Randalstown responded well gaining possession back from the restart and forcing a big defensive effort from Enniskillen, which eventually forced a knock on and the following Scrum gave McVitty a chance to clear their lines with a well placed kick to touch. Wilkinson soon put the home side back inside the opposition 22 metre line with a excellent kick to touch and Randalstown soon succumbed to the pressure and gave away a penalty; opting to kick to touch the resulting 5 metre line out and maul was well executed and David Buchanan crossed the line for another score, again converted by McVitty to leave the score 20-3.
Randalstown really struggled to achieve any possession now with the Enniskillen line out functioning well and the Skins scrum also dominant. This was clear when another Randalstown scrum feed was taken against the head and after only two short range carries from the forwards, McCleery released the backs and Richmond broke through the defence before offloading to Finlay who scored his second in the corner, unconverted to leave the score 25-3.
Randalstown again responded well from the restart and were camped in the Enniskillen half but another stolen scrum cancelled out the attack and McVitty had Enniskillen back down in familiar territory once again. After excellently defending the Skins onslaught in their own half for some time Randalstown eventually were awarded the penalty but failed to make touch and Ashley Finlay delivered a punishing counter attack before eventually being felled on the half way, and scrum half Paddy McCleery, spotting the scattered defence, picked from the ruck and broke through for a sniping run, offloading to O’Callaghan in support who scored the final points of the game to leave the score 30-3. Randalstown fought hard from the restart in search of a consolation try but the home side remained resolute until the end to leave the score unchanged.
The 1st XV play another Wednesday night fixture this week with a home friendly against the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment before going into their second last league game on Saturday away to Grosvenor RFC.

Sun Shines on Dominant Skins Girls. 22.3.15

Enniskillen U18 Girls……………..36
Virginia U18 Girls…………………0

Enniskillen U18 Girls travelled to Armagh Rugby Club to face a much fancied Virginia side in the final of the Ulster Youth Girls Cup. Skins were facing a team that had beaten Armagh 52-0 in the Semi Final, and knew that they had to improve on their Semi Final performance if they were to come away with silverware. Despite Virginia’s impressive Semi Final result, the Skins girls were quietly confident that they could overturn their southern opponents.

The game started with both teams locked horns in a war of physical attrition, as one team would try their best to bully the other team up front. In the opening exchanges however, it was Enniskillen that came out on top, as Virginia struggled to get out of their half. The County Cavan side in previous matches had run a lot of play through their talented fly half, although on the day, she didn’t get an opportunity to go near the ball without Alice Hurst hunting her down and either putting in a massive tackle, turning the ball over or charging the ball down. Even if the Virginia fly half managed to escape Hurst’s clutches momentarily to clear, most of her kicks went straight to Emma Shaw who counter attacked with venom and sheer pace that Virginia couldn’t handle. Furthermore on the odd occasion that Virginia got the ball wider than the fly half channel, Ellie Ingram, Lucy Barr and Rebecca Pennell had organised the defence so astutely that there were little to no gaps to be found. Virginia couldn’t escape their own half.

With ball in hand Skins looked sharp but were unfortunate not to have scored several tries, but for handling errors, or a strange desire to off load from every tackle when sometimes it wasn’t on. The Skins girls did get a well deserved try through the incessant Abbie Parkinson, who has a work rate that would put Paul O’Connell to shame. After Emma Shaw nearly scored from one of her scintillating counter attacks, Enniskillen recycled the ball well and passed the ball along the line, through half the team’s set of hands, until Parkinson took it upon herself to crash through a half gap and score under the posts for Skins first points of the afternoon. Kathryn Dane was never going to miss from in front of the posts adding the conversion to bring the score to 7-0.

The first half continued in the same way, with Virginia well and truly camped in their own half, and Skins creating chances for the likes of Niamh Toolan on one wing, who nearly crossed for a great team try, until she was hauled down just short, a tackle that caused her to sprain her ankle and bravely play on! Zoe Donaldson came close on the other wing as well, but for some impressive scramble defence from Virginia. Skins carried relentlessly with Rachel West, Katie Boles and Sophie Magwood causing huge problems to the Virginia defence. Virginia nearly had the last say of the half braking well through their winger, until Zoe Donaldson snuffed it out with an impressive cover tackle which brought the half to a close and saw Skins lead 7-0.

As impressive as Skins were in the first half, the score was still tight and Virginia were still very much in the game, so the Fermanagh based girls knew they had to maintain the intensity and improve the accuracy.

Ellie ‘the lion-heart’ Ingram marshalled the defence brilliantly shouting louder than any amount of supporters could, and putting in a few great tackles on girls twice her size. Lucy Barr was producing off loads that baffled the mind, and Rebecca Pennell was reading them and cutting superb lines that had Virginia chasing shadows. Not to be out done the Skins forwards started to throw the ball around as Claire Boles and Alison Glass started to make their mark on the game with some ferocious carries. Not far into the second half, Virginia had a scrum on their own five meter line, which was brilliantly stolen by Skins (thanks in part to Gareth Beatty and Ryan Cathcart’s coaching session that week) Kathryn Dane seized on the disarray and floated through several defenders to score a great try. She was unfortunate with the conversion from wide out.

This lifted the Enniskillen girls and they mercilessly kicked on to punish Virginia throughout the second half. The passion and commitment to the cause was epitomized when Hollie Bruce put her body on the line, and still worked endlessly in defence and attack. Virginia enjoyed a period of pressure in the Skins half, but when they looked remotely like breaking the line, Emma Shaw and Kathryn Dane worked tirelessly to shepard their opponents into touch and deny Virginia any points. This was particularly impressive from Dane considering her shoulder was causing her quite a bit of pain!

Hurst, Barr, Pennell, Ingram, Glass, and Parkinson continued to make line breaks, and Sophie Magwood and Rachel West continued their industrious work at the break down, securing the ball quickly for the outside backs to exploit the space. Claire Boles saw a bit of space and took her opportunity well rounding the defence and then scoring under the posts, Dane’s conversion attempt was good.

At this stage Virginia were completely demoralised. Every time they attacked they faced a maroon wall, with Katie Boles leading by example and racking up quite a tackle count. Things didn’t get much better for them when Skins had the ball, with holes appearing everywhere, exploited brilliantly by Ingram, and the deadly duo of Barr and Pennell. From one such line break, an off load to Parkinson, who was steaming on to the ball caused huge issues. Parkinson stormed over from 30 odd meters out and wasn’t going to be stopped!

Skins were ruthless and added two more tries before the end with Pennell showing her centre instincts and crashing on to a flat ball from Dane to score under the posts, again Dane added the extras. Alison Glass then added her name to the score sheet after some patient phase play, when she crashed over the line to get the last score of the day, leaving the scoreboard at 36-0.

This team, led by the peerless Kathryn Dane who has led from the front in every game, played three matches to win the cup, scoring 99 points and not conceding any, a stat that every single girl that played a part can be proud of as they were a credit to themselves and their club. Congratulations to Coach Patrick McCleery and all involved in this momentous achievement and groundbreaking progress for Girls’ Rugby at ERFC.

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