Armagh2 v Enniskillen Match Junior Cup Final Report 07-01-2020
10 JAN | BY CITY OF ARMAGH RUGBY CLUB
City of Armagh Seconds 17Enniskillen 1st XV 18
MMW Junior Cup Final
Tuesday 7th January 2020
Report by Evan Morton
It was cup despair yet again for City Of Armagh Seconds on Tuesday evening at the Kingspan Stadium when the side lost its second Junior Cup Final in three seasons. In what was a bitter pill to swallow, the team performed heroically in the first half and with a lead of 17-6 on 45 minutes, with the wind behind them in the second half, most spectators thought they had one hand on the cup. The final 35 minutes however was a lesson in how to lose a match with game management going out the window and a brave Enniskillen side, playing to their strength, to score two tries and win the match by a single point.
With a strong breeze blowing, winning the toss would be crucial and City of Armagh wisely elected to play into the wind in the first period. The Fermanagh side controlled early possession and the first box kick of the evening was spilled by Armagh offering Enniskillen the first attacking scrum of the evening. It was common knowledge that Enniskillen have the best srummaging pack in junior rugby and this was to prove to be their primary threat for the whole match. A scrum penalty from the first scrum proved ominous and rather surprisingly, outhalf, John Maguire went for points rather than kick into the corner. He was well vindicated however, when his 40 metre kick, remarkably hit the crossbar and went over for the first points of the match to Enniskillen after 4 minutes.
Armagh’s forwards won the restart and when Enniskillen’s backline strayed offside, they had an early chance to draw level. Outhalf, Harry Boyd lined up the kick from 30 metres and keeping the ball low into the wind, scored 3 points to tie the game after 7 minutes. Unfortunately in the build up, Armagh flanker Gareth McNeice had to retire injured with what turned out to be a broken collar bone. Johnny Agnew took to the field as his replacement.
Enniskillen then returned to Armagh territory and were awarded their second penalty of the night. This time, the ball was dispatched into touch 10 metres from Armagh’s tryline. A catch and drive took the Skins up to the tryline and Armagh defended desperately. Another penalty to Enniskillen and it was no surprise when they elected for a 5 metre scrum. As they marched towards the Armagh line, the ball went lose from the back of the scrum and incredibly, Armagh flanker, Harry Ferguson seized possession and made 20 metres up field. A remarkable let off for the Armagh side.
Just inside the Enniskillen half, Armagh conceded a free kick and the Skins chipped the ball back into Armagh territory. Full back Mervyn brown fielded the kick and then made a terrific break through a static Enniskillen defence. He brought play deep into Skins territory but unfortunately his scoring pass was dropped by the Armagh winger with a clear opportunity lost. A scrum penalty saw Enniskillen clear the danger and play retuned to the Armagh half at the end of the first quarter.
The Armagh defence was holding firm however another penalty was conceded for a high tackle 30 metres in front of the posts and Maguire made no mistake to put Enniskillen ahead 3 – 6.
The Fermanagh side then put in a crossfield kick on halfway which nearly caught Armagh asleep. The bounce however saw the ball roll into touch rather than into the waiting winger’s hands.
Remarkably, it was 25 minutes before Armagh had their first lineout of the game. Enniskillen were penalised for offside and Boyd kicked to touch for a lineout on the Skins’ 22. A great drive by the Armagh pack had Enniskillen in retreat and the forwards rumbled up to the Skins’ tryline. Johnny Agnew then used his strength to power over and Armagh had their first try of the final. An excellent conversion into the wind by Boyd now had the Orchard County side ahead 10-6 with 30 minutes on the clock.
Buoyed by this score, Armagh finished the half strongly and indeed a second try looked possible as Enniskillen were pinned back in their 22 with all the pressure coming from Armagh. Unfortunately a knock on saw the ball turned over and a penalty saw Enniskillen clear to halfway. Armagh had a final charge into the Enniskillen 22 before the break, with Agnew and Miller leading the way. Again the pressure led to nothing when good counter-rucking saw Enniskillen steal the ball and the halftime whistle went with City of Armagh still ahead, 10-6.
Enniskillen restarted the second period now playing into the strong wind. A penalty to Armagh for side entry was kicked to touch but the lineout was lost. On 42 minutes, Armagh second row, Oliver Miller, stripped the ball in a tackle on the halfway line and then set off on a charge down the right wing. Showing tremendous pace, the lock out paced the Enniskillen defence and scored a sensational try in the corner.
Harry Boyd then goaled a superb conversion from the touchline and suddenly Enniskillen faced a mountain to climb, now 17-6 in arrears.
Enniskillen then had a crooked lineout throw and Armagh used the possession to set up some phases inside their own half. Enniskillen continued to cause chaos at the scrum and another scrum penalty could have proved costly but the kicker failed to find touch. Nineteen year old prop, Aaron Whyte then came on to replace Peter Lamb who was having a tremendous game in the loose. Luke Crozier also took the field, replacing experienced centre, Stuart Lester.
Armagh seemed to lose momentum and their cause wasn’t helped when hooker Jack Treanor was sinbined for a no arms tackle. Armagh still had the majority of possession but to the frustration of their supporters, they failed to kick for territory and wasted their efforts in their own half of the pitch.
Enniskillen soon took advantage of the extra man and their forwards set up an attacking position in the Armagh 22. The ball was moved left and centre James Ferguson sliced though the Armagh defence to score under the posts. With Maguire’s successful conversion, Enniskillen were right back in the match at 17-13 with 60 minutes played.
Ryan Morton came on as replacement for the hard working Harry Ferguson and Andrew Smyth also came off the bench.
With ten minutes of the game remaining Armagh’s indiscipline continued with John Faloon being penalised for a high tackle. Fortunately no card was issued but Enniskillen were now sensing Armagh were vulnerable. They kicked another penalty to touch on the 22 and their lineout, which had been impressive all evening, malfunctioned letting Armagh off the hook. Another scrum penalty to Enniskillen on 72 minutes saw a terrific kick to touch and Armagh were in trouble 10 metres from their tryline. The Skins pack drove for the line but Armagh’s close in defence, led by James Morton, had been excellent all evening and held firm.
The pressure however continued with Enniskillen looking for the crucial score. From midfield, they spread the ball to the right and winger Angus Keys beat his opposite number to score in the corner.
The huge Enniskillen support erupted in the stand as the Skins now led 17-18. The conversion was missed but Armagh only had three minutes to rescue the match. The Taranto sponsored Armagh side did steal an Enniskillen lineout but their centres were then penalised for crossing on the halfway line and the match came to a close with Enniskillen camped in Armagh territory.
At the final whistle, Enniskillen celebrated their first ever Junior Cup victory while for City of Armagh it was a case of what might have been.
For the neutral it was an entertaining game but the Armagh side will look back at their second half performance with great disappointment. At 17-6, one further score would surely have secured victory but the team collectively went off the boil and Enniskillen were grateful to seize the opportunities Armagh presented them. The penalty count for the match was 13 – 5 in favour of Enniskillen so Armagh made life difficult for themselves.
Overall the majority of the team is young and relatively inexperienced and most will be back in a cup final in the future, hopefully having learned from this disappointment.
Next up for the Seconds is a tricky first round tie in the Town’s Cup away to Lurgan this Saturday. The tired bodies need to refocus and another cup run would help morale.