Enniskillen crank up the power to scratch an 82-year Cup itch
Ballyclare 0 Enniskillen 19
Enniskillen yesterday ended their 82-year wait to claim the RiverRock Towns Cup, which, understandably, prompted scenes of huge celebration at a sun-kissed Kingspan Stadium.
The Fermanagh team deservedly took the trophy back to Mullaghmeen after doing a job up front on holders Ballyclare, who were favourites to retain the Cup for the first time, with prop Gavin Warrington driving over for two of the challengers' three tries in between No.8 Richard Lee also crossing.
Scrum-half Nicky Finlay kicked two conversions to topple Ballyclare, who were unable to cope with the power and physicality of Enniskillen's forwards.
This was Enniskillen's third final in four years and skipper Ryan Cathcart's side made no mistake this time in getting their hands on the Cup for the first time since 1937.
With seven minutes on the clock, Finlay missed a penalty, but 10 minutes later the Fermanagh squad had the game's opening score after applying huge pressure on Ballyclare's line.
After a mix-up at half-back for the holders, Enniskillen camped near their line through a series of scrums and Warrington got the score after being held up moments earlier. Finlay was wide with the conversion.
The challengers had the better of most of the scrappy opening half, though Ballyclare ended it the stronger after Skins centre James Ferguson was yellow-carded after a breakdown issue.
Ballyclare went for the jugular after kicking to the corner and then put together their most impressive phases of play, only for Michael Kirk's try to be called back for an earlier forward pass which allowed Enniskillen to go into the second half leading by a slender 5-0 margin.
The Fermanagh men made light of being one man down and should have had a try from James Carleton five minutes after the restart only for the flanker to lose the ball.
But once fully restored to 15, Enniskillen upped the ante and shortly after they were penalised on Ballyclare's line, they had a second try in the bag.
After two scrums, both coming from penalties in Ballyclare's 22, Skins moved the ball to Ferguson and, after he was held up, No.8 Lee was there to dive over.
Finlay's conversion, from right in front of the posts, was a pivotal moment as the challengers led 12-0.
However, a 65th-minute penalty shot by the same man drifted wide to give the holders some hope. It didn't last very long though.
It was no surprise that the game entered its closing stages with Enniskillen on the front foot. A kick deep into Ballyclare territory kept the Fermanagh men in the right area and they ended with a flourish.
After Ballyclare flanker Aaron Playfair was yellow-carded for pulling down a driving maul, Enniskillen stayed camped on Ballyclare's line and, after two scrums, Warrington wriggled over again, with Finlay once again adding the two points afterwards.
The celebrations then began.
Ballyclare: G Clotworthy, O Kirk, J McBride, W Stewart, M Kirk, R Reid, A Eastop; D Jones, M Coulter, A Boyd, R Boyd, G Bartley (capt), A Playfair, G Weatherup, D Clarke.
Replacements: J Black, J Birnie, R Tweed, R Patterson, R McIlwaine.
Enniskillen: A Finlay, T Millar, M O'Shea, J Ferguson, C Hoy, A Lendrum, N Finlay; G Warrington, R Cathcart (capt), G Beatty, D Buchanan, J Kelly, G Parke, J Carleton, R Lee.
Replacements: S Fox, A Ferguson, M Dane, J Arnold, J Rutledge.
Referee: H Richmond