Carrickfergus 1XV 5 Enniskillen 1XV 19

Enniskillen 1st XV started their league season off in excellent fashion last Saturday with a 5-19 win away to Carrickfergus; an imposing venue which hasn’t yielded a victory to the travelling Skins contingent in many years.

On a fresh, sunny afternoon Skins were immaculate in the first half with a low penalty count, suffocating defence and a dominant set piece which provided the foundation for three Enniskillen scores.

A niggly second half saw more vigour from the home side and much less attacking ball for the visitors, leaving the game scoreless until Carrick ran in a consolation try in the final minutes while two Skins men did time in the sin bin.

Skins Head Coach, Stevie Welsh, was disappointed to have missed out on the bonus point.

“I was very happy with the result but we should have secured a bonus point.

“I was pleased though with a lot of aspects of our play, especially for the first game of the season, but there are also areas we need to brush up on,” he said.

And Welsh is expecting a tougher test this weekend when Skins host Clogher in the first derby game of the season.

“It has come up quick and it is always one that you look out for at the start of the season.

“Clogher are going to be a step up but we’ll prepare this week and, as I say, we’ll look to brush up in a few areas of our game.”

The first half saw a physical Enniskillen lay their marker down with much improved line speed in defence, forcing errors from the home side who still remained camped on the Skins 22’.

Initially the Carrick scrum was going well and an early penalty allowed them a shot at goal, but this drifted wide and gave the visitors a chance to clear their lines.

Good defensive pressure from the 22 drop out soon regained possession and some big carries from second rows Buchanan and Kelly tested the home defence.

The Carrick scrum began to struggle too and conceded a kickable penalty to give Skins a chance to take the lead. Maguire’s kick bounced off the uprights but James Ferguson was on hand to collect the rebound and combine with wing George Foster to bring play up approaching the five metre line. A flurry of pick and go’s then ended with captain Gavin Warrington crossing with a short range drive to take the lead after 20 minutes, unconverted to lead 0-5.

Enniskillen continued to frustrate the home side with James Carleton and Niall Keenan tormenting the Carrick line out to the point where they rarely retained their own ball.

In contrast the Skins line out functioned well and provided a solid base to attack from. One such an occasion came on the 30 minute mark as the Skins lineout and maul crept into the Carrick half only for the ball to go out the backs and find James Ferguson at 13 who cut through the defence and scored under the posts, converted to lead 0-12.

Play continued in this vein and again Skins broke through in midfield, this time through Daire Hill at 12 who was well accompanied by a flood of forward support, offloading to Jamie Kelly who found tighthead prop Steven Fox, trotting in from the 22’ to finish the spectacular score, converted to end the half at 0-19 to Enniskillen.

The second half saw a stronger Carrick performance and Enniskillen seemed to have severely lost the sympathies of the referee. Penalties galore came against the Skins side, mostly for breakdown infringements, and the result was a yellow card for a Skins forward as Carrick spent most of the second half camped in Enniskillen territory.

Carrick had a prime opportunity following a well worked blindside break but a strong Enniskillen shove at the resultant scrum turned the ball over and ended the attack. Skins continued to look impenetrable in defence and it took Carrick some time to sniff another opportunity out wide which was then knocked on much to the frustration of the home side.

Despite looking comfortable in defence, Skins couldn’t seem to clear their lines and soon had their backs to the try line yet again.

A second yellow card came their way for a high tackle with less than 10 minutes remaining and Carrick eventually exploited the advantage and claimed a try out wide.

Skins finally made their way into the Carrick half in the dying minutes in search of a bonus point but this came to nought and the contest ended 5-19.

This was a stellar result for Enniskillen who had many new combinations in play, including two new debutants in the starting line up in the form of Niall Keenan and George Foster, both looking comfortable in a senior setting.