Enniskillen 1st XV 13

Ballyclare 1st XV 23

Enniskillen 1st XV suffered defeat from their opening league encounter of the new season, going down to a strong Ballyclare side in a close contest at Mullaghmeen on Saturday.

It was a tight battle with some excellent play from the home side but ultimately some missed opportunities had Skins come away empty handed.

Skins, under new head coach Stevie Welsh, went in at the interval with a 10-8 advantage thanks to James Ferguson’s try but it was Ballyclare who were to have the better of the second half as they eventually ran out 23-13 victors.

It was all Enniskillen in the first quarter as they worked their way into the Ballyclare half and put the visitors under a lot of pressure.

Carries from David Buchanan and Jamie Kelly pressured the try line but Ballyclare held off the onslaught, often illegally which led to a penalty near the Ballyclare line.

The Enniskillen scrum looked to be dominant through Warrington, Cathcart and Beatty but they failed to get the touch down from the drive and the visitors managed a reprieve.

Still in their own half Ballyclare continued to give away penalties but there was no sign of a card being issued. Enniskillen achieved some consolation as Nick Finlay slotted a kick at goal to put them in the lead 3-0.

Ballyclare attacked well from the restart and Skins gave away a penalty under pressure which allowed them to level the scores.

The visitors soon took the lead from a scrum just inside the Skins half as Ballyclare moved the ball to their right wing who found some space and powered through a couple of scrambling tacklers to score in the corner, now leading 3-8.

The line out functioned well in the contest and Skins used it excellently as a platform in the lead up to half time as they made good ground deep into the Ballyclare half.

Lendrum moved the ball to Jarlath Maguire on the right wing who found James Ferguson on the inside to glide through for a well worked try, converted to go 10-8 up going into half time.

Enniskillen had the wind at their back now but a second half littered with penalties made hard work for the home side, infringements at the breakdown being the main culprit.

The first penalty in midfield allowed the visitors to set up a line out inside the Enniskillen 22.

The resultant maul was solid and couldn’t be stopped as it rolled towards the Skins try line, the opposition hooker touching down off the back of the maul to regain the lead 10-13.

Enniskillen provided an aggressive response yet again with James Carleton pressuring the restart and Ballyclare eventually giving away yet another penalty, allowing Finlay to level proceedings again at 13-13.

Ballyclare undid Enniskillen’s hard work soon afterwards as they slipped through a gap out wide and scored in the corner, unconverted to go 13-18 up.

Enniskillen put some good phases of attack together in the following phases and the forward pack made decent hard yards, but the Ballyclare defence continued to exert a lot of pressure.

The scoreline worsened following a knock-on just inside the 22 from Skins that was gathered by Ballyclare against the run of play to cross the line, 13-23.

Enniskillen composed themselves and worked hard off the restart to claim something from the contest.

A stolen Ballyclare put-in at the scrum gave Skins possession and they battered the visiting defence to earn a penalty. Enniskillen opted for the kick at goal in an effort to claim the losing bonus point but the difficult kick from the touch line drifted wide and was cleared to touch by Ballyclare to end the match.

There were plenty of positives for Enniskillen with moments of excellent open play, determined tackling, a solid set piece, as well as impressive debut performances from youngsters Jack Rutledge, Angus Keys and Reece Barrett. They will have to look at fine tuning some aspects of their game and reining in their discipline as they head for another tough fixture this weekend away to Carrickfergus.