Enniskillen Royal travelled to Armagh in the depths of winter to compete in the Last 16 of the 2nd XV Cup. This was a rematch of an early season friendly in which the Armagh team prevailed in a thrilling contest beating their counterparts 31-26.
Enniskillen were determined not to suffer the same fate again and started the match very brightly. ERGS were dominant in attack, with forwards Kyle Hobson and John Allan carrying strongly and Adam Boles and James Balfour displaying their usual threat in the backline. Unfortunately, this early pressure did not result in points and a series of penalties against the away team allowed Armagh to gain a foothold in the match and apply pressure at the opposite end of the field. Enniskillen defended valiantly phase after phase but eventually the elusive Armagh outhalf skipped through several tackles to score to the left of the posts. The conversion was missed. Enniskillen responded and once again set up camp in the Armagh 22 metre zone. Aggressive carries from Jones and Dane made valuable yards before a swift move to the backline allowed fullback Jack O’Hare to dance through two tackles to score Enniskillen’s only try of the game. Robbie Mills was successful with the conversion and this ended the first half action with Enniskillen leading 7-5.
The second half took on a similar format to the first with both teams having bright spells but both unable to take advantage of any early opportunities due to the worsening weather conditions. Armagh eventually made the pressure pay and scored another unconverted try after many phases in which the ERGS defence had held firm for a sustained period. Shortly after the restart, Enniskillen hooker John Fitzpatrick suffered an injury to his knee which caused a delay in proceedings. John unfortunately dislocated his kneecap and needed to be transferred to hospital for treatment. The match was moved to an adjacent pitch for the remaining 5 minutes and Armagh scored one final try with ERGS mind’s perhaps elsewhere, worried about their injured teammate. This left the final score 17-7 to Royal School Armagh.
Enniskillen Royal will be disappointed as they know they were capable of winning the game with discipline let them down on too many occasions. Whilst competitive cup rugby is now finished for the 2nd XV, many of these players are capable of pushing for a place in the 1st XV squad over the coming weeks and others will find themselves helping the 3rd XV continue their cup run in which they meet none other than Armagh Royal in their next cup fixture in the New Year.
We all wish John Fitzpatrick a speedy recovery and a well-earned rest holiday break.