Clogher Valley 32 Enniscorthy 19

Clogher Valley were back to top form again on Saturday with a fantastic bonus point win over third place Enniscorthy at the Cran.

This leaves the Valley still two points behind leaders Galwegians who are their opponents next week in a home clash at the Cran. The winners of this encounter will be in a strong position to finish top of the league.

The Valley got off to a dream start when skipper Paul Armstrong intercepted a pass aimed for the Enniscorthy winger and he then outsprinted the full back over 50 metres and ran in to score under the posts. This is something he has done frequently for the club where he reads the play and knows exactly when to pounce. Armstrong converted his own try and the hosts led 7-0 after four minutes.

Minutes later the visitors transgressed, and the referee awarded a penalty to the Valley. David Maxwell punted the ball down the line, gaining 40 metres. The Valley lineout was secured, and the pack drove towards the Enniscorthy try line. The visitors once again transgressed, and a penalty was awarded centre of the pitch. Armstrong was on form again, with a monster 40 metre kick which sailed over the bar with ease. The home side led 10-0.

The visitors were not overshadowed by the host’s quick start and set about playing their style of game, dominating most of the play. Eventually the Valley defence succumbed and Enniscorthy crossed the line to score their first try. The additional conversion points were added and for the next 10 minutes the score remained close at 10-7 to the Valley. Another transgression by Enniscorthy and Armstrong added an additional three points from a penalty 45 metres out.

As the first half game came to a close, the Valley opted for a scrum rather than take a penalty. The scrum drove towards the Enniscorthy line and then it went to open play. Phases after phase the Valley threw all but the ‘kitchen sink’ at the visitors, with Jamie Allen eventually crossing the line. Skipper Paul Armstrong added the conversion to make the half time score appear to be clearly in the Valley’s favour at 20-7.

Playing against the wind, but down towards the Golf Club end, the hosts started to put together numerous phases of the play, forcing the visitors back into their own half. The Valley strung together numerous phases, off loads and line breaks driving Enniscorthy close to their own try line. It was skipper Paul Armstrong who was to drive the knife into the visitor’s chest with a third try. Picking the ball up from the ruck at full pace, the skipper weaved his way through several Enniscorthy defenders to make that final stretch using his 6-foot 5 inch frame to get the ball onto the line. He added the additional points and the hosts now led 27-7.

It was the Valley who was next to score again. A penalty was awarded to the hosts on the halfway line. David Maxwell kicked the ball down the line giving the Valley a lineout eight metres out. Enniscorthy knew what was coming and set about organising their defence. The Valley secured the lineout and drove towards the visitors try line. The backs joined in to give that extra weight and the maul edged closer and closer to the try line. The visitors pulled the maul down, but Calum Smyton broke and drove the remaining few metres over the line. The try bonus point now secured and with the score 32-7, most believed that the game was over.

Enniscorthy had other plans though and were pushing hard for bonus points of their own. If they could get four tries or finish within seven points of the Valley, they could actually come away with two losing bonus points.

The visitors scored their second try on the 26 minute mark and the third on the 34th minute. With the score now 3219 the visitors had the belief they could salvage something from the match and continued to press.

But it was not to be, the Valley rallied and finished the match dominating the play close to the Enniscorthy try line. Skipper Paul Armstrong finished with a personal tally of 22 points from the boot and two tries. Michael Bothwell playing at scrum half was given the ‘Player of the Match’ award. His electric breaks especially taking quick penalties caught even the referee napping at times.

Coach Stephen Bothwell was much happier with the team performance, especially in the second half, despite conceding two tries. It was a return to the style the Valley faithful has become accustomed to over the last years. The energy had returned to the play, David Stinson and Jamie Allen were back making line breaks, David Sharkey brought a whole new level of experience to the pack. The two Haire brothers and Karl Bothwell were back again making yards with every break, and when the bench was brought on, they added value to the match, increasing the intensity of the game.

Elsewhere the 3rds XV led by Luke Cuthbertson overcome Ballyclare 26-19 to make it a double for the Valley at the Cran. Next week is the clash of the top two when Galwegians visit the Cran in what could give the winners a strong advantage in the run in to the end of the season.