Enniskillen 1st XV 8 Omagh 1st XV 9 It was a case of so close yet so far away for Enniskillen on Saturday as a last minute converted penalty sent them to a one point defeat to neighbours Omagh at Mullaghmeen.

Having been well beaten by Omagh only a week previous, Skins produced a much improved performance this time around, and one which most would agree had Enniskillen in the ascendency for most of the game, but Omagh came away from Mullaghmeen last Saturday with a win as a kick in the last minute of the game sealed a 9-8 victory for the visitors, leaving Skins with a losing bonus point for their efforts.

Skins coach Willie Gibson was disappointed not to have held on for the win although he was pleased with an improved performance from his side.

“We got a bonus point out of the game which keeps us in the top four hunt but we are very disappointed not to have won the game.

“Defensively, the boys stuck to what we had asked them to do and Omagh never looked like scoring a try after scoring five the week before. The result was there for us so it was disappointing.

“We would though be much happier with how we played. We showed what we are capable of, we shut Omagh down,” he said.

Enniskillen seemed to have cured their defensive frailties from the previous week as they neutralised a dangerous Omagh back line, as well as pinning Omagh in their own half throughout the game with an improved kick chase and set piece.

The scrum continued it’s dominance while the line out functioned flawlessly.

There was plenty of adversity for Enniskillen in the first half as Kaine Holden saw yellow 10 minutes in for some overeagerness, coming around the ruck in an offside position to attempt the turnover.

This allowed Omagh to register the first points from the penalty to go 3-0 up.

Despite being a man down Enniskillen defended well and didn’t look like conceding a try in the period.

As they returned to full numbers Skins set up camp in the Omagh half and tried to build a platform for a score. Omagh struggled to gain any respite as their scrum was under pressure and Carleton and Holden excellently tormented their line out, leaving the visitors with little possession.

Still it took Skins a long time to benefit from their dominant territory as the Omagh defence worked hard to disrupt the Enniskillen back line.

Eventually a score came during some broken play in the Omagh half as a loose ball, following an explosive hit from James Ferguson, was gathered by Enniskillen and shifted quickly through the hands of Connor Keys and Matthew Balmer to find Jamie Johnston supporting out wide to cross the line, unconverted to put Skins 5-3 up.

Enniskillen ventured back into the Omagh half from the restart and put some good tight phases together as David Buchanan and Ricky Lee tested the tacklers. An infringement at the ruck from Omagh allowed John Maguire to slot three points before the end of the half to go 8-3 up.

The second half saw an improved Omagh attack but Enniskillen’s defence was solid throughout.

However, while they absorbed the pressure confidently, ill discipline began to creep in and Enniskillen put themselves under pressure yet again when Jamie Johnston exited to the sin bin after an altercation at a ruck. Omagh battered the Skins line now but the defence was well organised from the home side and the back row worked hard to counter the deficit in numbers; the Enniskillen scrum also remained solid and yielded some crucial penalties for the home side to clear their lines. Omagh did capitalise on an attempted turnover by Skins at the ruck that was deemed illegal and brought themselves back to trailing just 8-6 with a penalty.

With full numbers restored, Enniskillen looked dangerous yet again into the last quarter and a counter attack from Ashley Finlay put Skins deep in Omagh territory and attacking patiently. Some handling errors had Skins back in their own half in the final minutes but defending comfortably with their mere two point lead. A typically controversial Omagh-Enniskillen moment was to ensue. Following an Omagh knock on, which would have essentially ended the contest, an absurdly late hit was inflicted from behind on scrum half Paddy McCleery who was at a standstill following the stoppage. An obvious penalty but the Enniskillen reaction and resultant tussle with the assailant had the penalty reversed and earned Skins a red card on top of Omagh’s mere yellow. Omagh kicked the three points for a 9-8 victory against a shellshocked Skins.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Enniskillen as they will feel they were on track for a win. However, winning an encounter with three cards to show for it is a rare feat, and the fixture could be a useful, if harsh, lesson in how 80 minutes of composure and more intelligent consideration of the referee could swing a game.

On the bright side Skins remain in the top half of Q1 with almost half their fixtures still to play. They now travel to Ballyclare this Saturday, a team they bested in December at Mullaghmeen but will have to dig very deep to see off on their home patch.