Enniskillen 1st XV 8 Carrickfergus 1st XV 17

Enniskillen 1st XV’s slipped further into trouble at the wrong end of the Championship Division One table following a 17-8 defeat to Carrickfergus at Mullaghmeen on Saturday.

The loss was Enniskillen’s eighth of the league campaign and it leaves them sitting only one point ahead of second from bottom Coleraine in the table.

When Skins travelled to Carrick earlier in the season they had managed to grind out a draw but on Saturday the visitors were clearly up for the contest and came out on top after a scrappy, physical encounter.

Skins started well into the wind but a couple of handling errors gave Carrick opportunities and, with a formidable scrum, they were able to build a solid foundation.

Soon Carrick were deep in the Enniskillen half and found a gap in the stretched Skins defence to cross for a try, converted to go 7-0 up.

The returning Ashley Finlay was solid under the high ball, ably supported by Angus Keys and James Ferguson in the back three, while the centre pairing of Nick Finlay and Connor Keys moved the ball well leading to a few decent breaks from the back line; however, Skins struggled with ball retention and perhaps lacked support at times meaning many of the breaks came to no avail.

Big ball carries coming through Ricky Lee and James Carleton made the hard yards for the home side but the Carrick defence was ever vigilant, if veering offside on many an occasion going by the protests of the Skins support.

Skins worked their way into the Carrick half patiently and put severe pressure on the line with carries from the pack.

Repeated penalties eventually earned the visitors a yellow card and Skins had to settle for three points from the boot of Finlay for their long period of pressure before the end of the half.

With the one man advantage in the second half Enniskillen sought to take control and they built phases off a line-out just inside the 22’. Keeping the pressure on the visitors the forwards continued to carry at the line and eventually forced their way over to touch down for a score, unconverted to lead 8-7.

The lead was to be short lived however as ill discipline following the restart gave Carrick a penalty within range and they took the three points to lead 8-10 once again.

Skins were clearly looking for the killer blow now but looked generally frustrated as the visitors disrupted their progress. The line out stuttered in the windy conditions and Carrick slowed down Enniskillen ball at every opportunity.

Penalties crept in now from Enniskillen and they ended up back in their own half going into the closing stages.

In the end it was the Carrick backs who struck to pick up another score, converted to finish 8-17 and deny Skins even a bonus point from the encounter.

Skins will hope to find their form as they prepare for what will be a crucial round of fixtures over the next couple of months.

They travel to Instonians this weekend, a venue where few teams salvage league points, however, there was little separating the two teams earlier in the season and there would be no better time to pull off a shock result.