Ulster Schools 2ndXV Plate match. Last 16
11 January 2017
It was definitely a day for “up the jumper”, in old parlance. Cold, wet and windy. Foyle’s second fifteen have been improving all season and despite having beaten them twice, Enniskillen knew they had to be at the top of their game if they wanted to progress to the quarter-finals, and they were.
Enniskillen made light of the very tricky conditions with great line speed, aggressive rucking and accurate passing. They attacked hard from the outset and the first 15 minutes saw them fall a half metre short of an opening try on at least four occasions. Kyle Hobson must wonder how his many powerful lunges at the Foyle try line failed to bring him a score in this first quarter. In the end it was Jack Coalter who ran in from 15 metres to open Enniskillen’s account and give them just reward for their efforts. The next quarter saw more of the same with Chris Balfour, David Patton and John Fitzpatrick making very good ground every time they got the ball.
The back row of Ally Jones, Cormac Boylan and Jordan Thompson quickly cut off nearly all Foyle’s attacks, and any that did make it as far as the backs were smothered by the Enniskillen captain, James Balfour and his centre partner, Curtis Coalter. With the wind behind them and not much give in the defence in front of them, the home side kicked for position. Even these efforts were returned with interest by the highly proficient full back, Josh Kennedy, very well supported by wings Jonny Irvine and Connor Goodall. Together they gave a good display of the ‘back three’ as both an attacking and a defensive unit.
In the wet conditions it was very difficult for both sides to stay on their feet and penalties abounded at the rucks. A series of such infringements by Enniskillen allowed Foyle a rare incursion inside their 22 metre line, but the defence was resolute and a delightful cameo by Jones with quick feet and winger Irvine with a delicate chip brought Enniskillen straight back into the Foyle half.
The visitor’s pack continued to dominate and Alex Holder at out-half switched tactics to spread the ball to the backs who mounted a succession of attacks which ended with James Balfour crossing the line for Enniskillen’s second try and a half time score of 10-0.
The second half continued in much the same vein with the weather doing as much as Foyle to prevent further Enniskillen scores. However, given their dominance in all areas of the game more scores were inevitable, and when some scrappy open play allowed Curtis Coalter a little space for the first time he carved his way through a disorganised defence for an individual try. Ally Jones converted with a cheeky drop goal to put some distance between the teams at 17-0.
Enniskillen would have been very happy with that score given the conditions, even though it did not reflect their dominance, but they kept the pressure on Foyle helped by the fresh legs of Alex Armstrong, coming back from injury, Harry Dane and Tom Penry in the back row and Jack Dean and Craig Johnston in the back three. Mark Crawford had already replaced an injured Holder and was varying his kicking and passing game to keep the home side pinned inside their 22. Matthew McConkey, at scrum-half, added a little gloss to the score line with a sniping run at the side of a ruck to touch down close to the posts. Crawford split the uprights with the conversion and the game finished 24-0. Enniskillen now wait for the draw to see who they meet in the quarter finals and while the opposition will undoubtedly be tougher, they should, on this display, approach the next round with a good degree of confidence.