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Enniskillen in second round of Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup after win over Malone II

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Crunch: Malone’s Nathan Brown is brought down to the earth with a bang

Crunch: Malone’s Nathan Brown is brought down to the earth with a bang

Brian Thompson

Crunch: Malone’s Nathan Brown is brought down to the earth with a bang

Enniskillen advanced to the second round of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup after staving off a spirited comeback attempt from Malone II and win at Gibson Park on Saturday afternoon.

It had initially looked as if Enniskillen coach Norman Richmond's gameplan would work perfectly when his side raced into a 24-0 lead thanks to tries from Ashley Finlay, Jack Harte and captain Jamie Johnston.

However, Malone launched an unlikely response with three tries of their own and the game concluded with the visitors penned back in their own territory.

After the victory, Johnston hailed the character shown by his team to withstand the late pressure.

"In the first half we were fairly clinical and that allowed us to get into a nice lead after some good possession but that turned right around in the second half," said the Ulster Junior.

"They were very dangerous when they got the ball out wide and the backs scored some fantastic tries.

"I was really happy with the work rate of everyone, and especially our pack, in defence.

"We're still doing a lot of fitness work even now and it's starting to pay off as we're able to hold on.

"We did well to just dig the nails in and keep clinging on."

And, having negotiated a tricky first tie, Johnston now has his eyes on an extended run in the competition.

He added: " It would be great to go on a cup run and we'll do our best against whoever we get.

"It would be nice to get a home fixture but we'll just have to wait for the draw."

Enniskillen gained an advantage just three minutes into the contest when Ashley Finlay – recruited from Cooke during the summer to act as a player/coach – led an excellent break and then finished off the move himself after his team-mates had progressed through several phases.

They were playing some excellent rugby and another score seemed inevitable when, after being released by a superb inside pass, Stevie Fox charged upfield.

The prop was just unable to release the ball to his left although Malone were penalised at the breakdown allowing Nick Finlay to kick his side into a 10-point lead.

With 25 minutes on the clock, Enniskillen scored again as a sublime offload from Donnagh O'Callaghan put Johnny Foster into space and the substitute winger drew a man before sending flanker Harte under the posts.

Malone looked set to offer some response just before half-time but, after a sustained period of pressure, David Taylor was able to force a turnover on the ground and end the threat.

Shortly after the turn and the County Fermanagh side had their third of the day when a move off the top of the lineout had David Buchannan streaking clear and, although unable to finish himself, there was no stopping Johnston once the No 8 had the ball in his hands.

When Finlay added his third conversion of the day to make the score 24-0, the contest seemed to be over but that did not account for a stirring final half an hour of play from the hosts.

First good work from Ciaran Joyce set up his midfield partner Nathan Brown for a score and, after Neil Burns added the extras, Malone were crossing the line again just minutes later.

This time it was Burns who led the break and after an exchange of passes with flanker Luke Creighton the outhalf was over the line and able to convert his own try.

With the deficit down to just 10 points, an unlikely turnaround was on the cards but the game's next points would not come for almost 20 minutes.

With eight minutes of the game remaining Malone had been camped in Enniskillen territory for several phases and as the Belfast side worked the ball along the line they had numbers out wide.

Richard McCullough's pass was almost picked out of the air by Patrick McCleery but the scrum-half succeeded only in knocking the ball on.

Malone, rather than take what would probably have been deemed a penalty, gathered possession off the ground and full-back Jack McMurtagh scored the try.

Now only a score behind, the hosts laid siege to the Enniskillen line but the visitors defended manfully and held out to deservedly take their place in the next round.

Belfast Telegraph