Portadown 1st XV 13 Enniskillen 1st XV 33 Enniskillen 1st XV took a massive step towards a top four finish as they secured a bonus point victory over Portadown to leapfrog them into fourth place the table.
And a win this Saturday in what is sure to be a keenly contested derby encounter against Clogher at Mullaghmeen would leave Skins in a strong position to achieve that goal.
Skins coach Willie Gibson was delighted with how his side recovered following a slow start on Saturday to clinch the victory.
“We started very poorly in the game but to be fair to the boys they put that behind them and once they settled they produced a strong performance and it was an important win for us,” said Gibson.
However, he is not expecting anything easy when Clogher travel to Mullaghmeen on Saturday.
“It’s a derby game and it’s going to be a big battle as it always is against Clogher. We’ll go and try and play our game and all we can do is try to get a performance. If we do that and get the result then hopefully it will help us to secure a top four finish,” he added.
It was a dry, calm day at Portadown and the surface was excellent given the recent rainfall. As Gibson stated, the game did not start well for Skins as Portadown spread the ball wide to their winger from a line out on the half way and scored in the corner to take an early 7-0 lead.
Skins put the slip up behind them though and looked to reassert themselves in the game. The Portadown forwards carried hard at the Skins defensive line and their backs looked threatening but Enniskillen weathered the early storm with some determined defence; Buchanan leading from the front and flankers Parke and Lee putting in a solid tackling display. The scrum made a major difference in the battle for possession as Skins were extremely dominant; the front row of Ferguson, Cathcart, Beatty and Steven Fox in rotation all claimed a number of penalties and turned over possession frequently. Portadown did well to disrupt the Enniskillen line out to thwart some early attack but the first score came for Skins 25 minutes in from a scrum on the Portadown five metre line. Following continued collapsed scrums from the home side, the Portadown prop saw a yellow card and Enniskillen drove over the line from the resultant scrum for Kaine Holden to touch down, unconverted to bring the score to 7-5.
It was an arm wrestle to the end of the half as both sides sought territory and the forward packs traded blows. Portadown tested Skins with some kicks in behind the defence but Finlay at fullback was typically solid and dealt with the threat well.
The second half quickly became a lively affair as just three minutes in Lendrum received the ball off a line out in the Portadown half and hit Rob Baloucoune on a scything run; the scramble defence was good but Finlay was in support and took the offload, then finding Monteith who crossed the line for a try to go 12-7 up.
The home side were undeterred as they worked their way back into the Skins half and began to exploit some indiscipline from the Fermanagh men. First for creeping offside and then for an infringement at the ruck, Portadown took a 13-12 lead approaching the 60 minute mark after being awarded two consecutive penalties. Enniskillen settled themselves and worked their way back into the Portadown half from the restart. A red card for the Portadown hooker for stamping at the ruck had Skins down near the Portadown try line once again and another devastating scrum claimed the penalty try, converted by Lendrum to go 19-13 up.
Enniskillen moved the ball confidently now and the back line looked dangerous. Following some strong carries from Lee and Johnston the ball went wide to Baloucoune who broke down the wing just inside the Portadown half with Finlay in support who finished in the corner for the bonus point try, converted to go 26-13 up.
A penalty to Enniskillen following the restart for an infringement around the ruck allowed Lendrum to pin the home side back near their try line once again. The forwards put together some short range carries off the line out before a linebreak and offload saw Richie Willis power over the line for the final try, converted to go 33-13 up.
It was a very memorable win for Enniskillen whose victories on Portadown soil are few and far between. It’s a testament to the development of the side who seem to have clicked now at this critical time of the season. A home derby match against Clogher this Saturday is a fitting way to end the league season and attempt a top four finish, followed next week by the Town’s Cup semi final.