Clogher Valley 18
There was a fantastic atmosphere at Mullaghmeen on Friday night as Enniskillen Rugby Club hosted local rivals Clogher Valley RFC in a, perhaps ambitiously titled, friendly in aid of Cancer Connect NI, with music afterwards from high profile Tyrone band The Logues.
A minutes silence took place before the game for the father of Richard Haire who is both a past club captain of Enniskillen, as well as a current Clogher Valley stalwart.
The game kicked off with Enniskillen clearly up for the challenge, playing good rugby deep in the Clogher half and dominating the early phases of play.
The set piece was solid for Enniskillen and granted them a good share of possession, scrums were a hard fought contest from the outset with Alan Ferguson, Steven Fox and Gareth Beatty more than holding their own throughout, and Kaine Holden consistently winning good ball at the line-out.
Great early work from Enniskillen was soon nullified however, with a turnover and a long kick into Skins territory.
Credit must go to the industrious Clogher defence who relentlessly hounded Enniskillen’s half-back pairing all night and shut down any attempt from Enniskillen to unleash Alan Wilkinson and James Ferguson in the centres.
Enniskillen now found themselves on the back foot in the latter part of the first half with Clogher’s back line firing on all cyclinders. Strong running from Faulkner in the centre and impressive support play eventually broke the Skins defence which gave way twice in the first half, Willie Stafford and Andy Breen chalking up the tries. An additional penalty from the boot of Philip Holmes left the half time score 13-0 in favour of the visitors.
The second half was more positive for Enniskillen, indiscipline from Clogher created numerous penalty opportunities, but the resulting line-outs from kicks to touch were all well dealt with and the maul proved ineffectual.
An injury to Dan Allister at out-half led to a reshuffle with Alan Wilkinson taking his place and Ben Parkinson coming on in the centres, as well as Patrick McCleery moving from full back to scrum-half.
This seemed to work well for Skins with the wider back line seeing more ball and looking very dangerous when doing so, first XV newcomer Chris Daley performing very well against powerful opposition.
The introduction of Stephen Welsh and Richard Beatty into the front row brought some more experience to the team and greatly improved the performance at the breakdown.
Enniskillen were unlucky not to keep the second half level as Ronan McAleer once again crossed the line for Clogher to leave the final score 18-0.
Though there’ll be some hard work to be done on the training park Enniskillen can take a lot away from this game, and with the return of some key players head coach Norman Richmond will be very positive about their upcoming season.
Enniskillen’s have one final pre-season friendly this Saturday at Mullaghmeen against Lurgan before hosting Lisburn on 13 September in their opening fixture in Kukri Qualifying League Two.
Clogher Valley’s season begins in earnest this weekend when they travel to take on Ballymoney in Kukri Qualifying League One this Saturday at 2.30pm.