Enniskillen 1st XV 30 City of Derry 1st XV 24

Enniskillen’s league challenge stepped up a notch on Saturday as they overcame City of Derry at Mullaghmeen to make it two wins out of two.

Head coach Alastair Keys was pleased with the win although there were concerns when City of Derry battled their way back into the game.

“We nearly let it slip so there is room for improvement,” said Keys.

“There was lots of good points but City of Derry are a good side, they have lots of experience and kept going right to the end.

“That is maybe something we have to learn, to see the game out.”

And Keys is expecting a big test this Saturday with an away game against Cooke.

“If you go by last year Cooke would be regarded as one of the top teams and with it an away game it will be very tough but it is another challenge for us and we’ll just take it one game at a time,” he added.

Skins welcomed back Stephen Balfour in the centre after a long absence due to injury while the visitors fielded a very experienced side with a bulky pack which had a weight advantage of at least 10 kilos a man. This was definitely going to be a step up in class for this young home side.

Although the match started in wet conditions things quickly dried up and Eddie Keys had Skins on the attack early on with a brilliant 50/22 touch.

Opening score

From the lineout, there were a few picks and goes towards the Derry line and it was number 7 Jack Harte who crossed the line for the opening converted score.

The visitors exerted their first pressure from the restart when they won a penalty in midfield. Skins won the ball back and kicked ahead and took advantage of a fumble by the Derry fullback leading to a second score when Henry Keys forced his way over.His brother again converted and after 15 minutes Enniskillen led 14-0.

As in life, things do not always run smoothly in rugby and there was soon a change in fortunes when Sam Balfour was the recipient of an unduly harsh yellow card for a high tackle.

The visitors took advantage of their numerical advantage and following a scrum in the Enniskillen half they scored a try in the corner from a conventional move and the conversion followed.

On 25 minutes Skins moved the ball well, Derry were penalised and Eddie Keys added three points to make it 17-7.

With the return of Sam Balfour, there was a good period of attacking play and it was Sam himself who collected an excellent kick by Keys to score an unconverted try in the corner.

However, on the stroke of half-time, the Derry fullback kicked an excellent penalty to leave the score 22-10 at the break.

Enniskillen increased their lead on 47 minutes following a Derry player going offside and at 25-10 the home side appeared to be well in control.

However, Skins started to get on the wrong side of the referee and in the third quarter the penalty count against them mounted.

Derry sensed a scrum advantage and opted for scrums on a number of occasions in the Skins half.

They also started to use their possession better and had dangerous attackers in their 10,1 5 and particularly their outside centre who on several occasions threatened to score with good footwork and strong running

Only for a superb tackle by Jack Harte, Derry would have scored on 52 minutes but they did score a converted try on 62 minutes when Skins again had a player yellow-carded.

At 25-17 things were getting fraught for the faithful and in truth, the home side had not got out of their own half in the third quarter.

Eventually, following a rare penalty, Keys kicked the Skins deep into enemy territory and after a series of carries, the out-half repeated his trick and Sam Balfour again gratefully collected a cross kick to score in the corner to make the score 30-17 with five minutes to go.

The visitors again regrouped and came calling and the coaching staff will be slightly disappointed at the concession of a late converted try.

In the very last minute of a very long second half, Mark O’Shea came to the home side’s rescue when he cleared a stray kick to touch, leaving the final score 30-24 to Skins and a bonus point win.

There was much to admire in the Enniskillen performance, especially in the first half.

It was also a lesson to this young side that the road is getting steeper and it was instructive to play against and deal with bigger and better players.

The next opponents, Cooke are a similar side to Derry and it will take a fully focused performance to secure the points.