Enniskillen were, as they say, “still on the bus” for the first 15 minutes of this turbulent match against a very well drilled Rainey 2ndXV and they did well not to go concede a couple of tries during the opening period. Great defence, especially from Sam Frazer, Alex Holder and captain, Jordan Thompson, kept the home side at bay despite repeated attacks from both forwards and backs while a much improved David Patton stole a few key balls and carried strongly in response.
When Rainey did score it was through a well worked rolling maul to which Enniskillen had no answer. (One aspect that will need to be worked on at next week’s training sessions). Despite having difficulty with some of referee’s decisions the team woke themselves up, kept their discipline and forced their way back into the game but could not manage the final push for a try to level the scores. The first half finished Rainey 5, Enniskillen 0.
The visitor’s growing momentum was stalled by the disruption caused by the halftime substitutions. Despite the introduction of some strong players for Enniskillen Rainey began to threaten once again. Frustration, both with the way the game was going and by further suspect refereeing decisions, began to show in Enniskillen’s play and they found themselves pushed back into their own 22 by the well organised and disciplined home side. They kept Enniskillen under pressure for a long period of play which ended with full back, Craig Johnston, being handed the ball for a clearance kick at the same moment as two large Rainey forwards descended on him from a height. In the ensuing melee Rainey fell on the ball to score their second try which they converted to bring the score to 12-0 with 10 minutes left to play.
At this point, with tempers fraying and exasperation turning to despair, it looked as if the game might turn into a rout. Enter Alex Holder.
The out half had already been arguably the best player on the park but from the restart he simply moved up to a higher level. He ran straight and hard at the opposition defence who were caught napping and before they could turn and chase he was halfway to the Rainey try line. He sidestepped the covering wing before committing the full back and slipping the ball to the supporting Mark Crawford who went in under the posts. Craig Johnston converted to make it 12-7 with just 6 minutes left on the clock. The undoubted passion of the Enniskillen players, which only moments before had threatened to dissolve into anger, now became a positive force. Renewed efforts by the pack put the ball back into Holder’s hand again and he delicately chipped the mid-field defenders to set off downfield once more. James Balfour was the support player this time but he was tackled agonisingly short of try line, right in front of the posts. Fortunately, the new energy that was invigorating the team meant that there were a number of players on hand and some quick passing to the wing gave Crawford his second try of the match to bring the scores level. Johnston’s conversion attempt from the touch line went just wide.
Enniskillen were now completely dominant and although more points seemed inevitable, time was running out. In the last minute of the game Johnston tried a speculative penalty from the 10 metre line which fell just a couple of metres short and the game finished 12 points all but, perhaps, with the honours to Enniskillen.
The team need to learn to control their emotions, to accept the inevitable injustice of some refereeing decisions and to turn that obvious passion into controlled, focused play or they may not bring off such a spectacular escape the next time. However, we should leave the last words to those who were heard chanting in the 2ndXV changing room after the match, “Holder’s on fire, Holder’s on fire”.