The first of this season’s games got underway in the Nutty Krust U18 Tournament under the floodlights at a dry and very cool Chambers Park in a preliminary round game involving Malone U18s and Enniskillen U18s on Tuesday evening.
The Malone team recorded a well contested 26-7 victory with the scoreboard having read 14-7 in their favour at the break. A sizeable crowd had gathered to watch an entertaining game which featured quite a few talented players on both teams. Among the group watching the game was a member of the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department.
The first 5 minutes were spent mainly in the middle third as the two teams got into their stride but it was Skins’ second row Tomas Scallon who made the first incisive break into the Malone 22. Unfortunately, a lack of support meant a real scoring chance was lost. Enniskillen maintained pressure in the opposition 22 but handling errors caused further opportunities to be wasted.
Some strong carries by Malone prop, Lewis Brown put his side on the attack and following 6 or 7 minutes’ pressure, they were eventually held up over the line.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes when some simple back play off an attacking scrum saw centre Sam Green cross close the posts for his first try. Timmy Cunnane converted to put Malone 7-0 ahead.
Enniskillen responded through strong carries from Scallon, Francis McCrystal and Niall Keenan but inaccurate handling prevented attacks developing. Lewis Brown and No. 8 Jason Dowds tried to put Malone on the front foot but some solid defence by Skins centres Sean McManus and Oisin Jackson kept their line intact.
On 27 minutes, Malone tapped and went with a penalty on the Skins’ 10m line. No. 8 Kyle Davis won a try-saving turnover in his own 22 but sadly became isolated and was penalised for holding on. Alert scrum half Aaron McShane tapped quickly again and fed Sam Green who scored left of the posts for a second try, converted by Cunnane to put Malone 14 ahead.
Just 2 minutes from the break, Enniskillen centre Sean McManus made a scintillating break, beating 4 players to get within metres of the line. After a few phases, Kyle Davis muscled his way over for a deserved try which was converted by Pryce Beatty.
Half time arrived with just a 1 score deficit for Skins 14-7.
The second half began with early Malone pressure. Good handling from out half Tim Stanfield and his centres created an early unconverted score in the corner for flanker Aaron McClure.
Enniskillen’s endeavour and energy kept them in the game against improving Malone handling.
At 19-7 and 15 mins remaining, Malone began to use clever tactical kicking to keep Enniskillen pinned in their own half.
Eventually a poor clearance kick sparked a Malone counter in which Sam Green hit a great line to break the defence and rounded the last man to score his hat trick. The Cunnane conversion put Malone 26-7 up with 5 left.
Enniskillen had a last rally and could have scored again but for a couple of crucial knock-ons and a line out turnover.
Final score: Malone 26 Enniskillen 7
This victory for the Malone team ensures they will play Clogher Valley RFC U18s in the last of the Nutty Krust Quarter-Final games on Wednesday 26th February.
As usual with the Nutty Krust Tournament the players all received a post-match meal which was sponsored by Jim Hewitt Meats, prepared by the staff in “Scrummies” kitchen, and organised by the Wickham duo. All players, as well as their coaches, received a Nutty Krust loaf on departure.
Brian Irwin, MD of Irwin’s Bakery the tournament sponsor presented the Nutty Krust “Man of the Match Award” at the post match ceremony. The Man of the Match Award went to Sam Green, the Malone RFC U18 No 13 who scored a hat trick of tries and defended well.
The first of the quarter-final games in the 2020 Nutty Krust Tournament will see the Armagh U18 team – the current holders of the Nutty Krust Trophy – play Banbridge at 7:45pm on Wednesday 5th February under the Chambers Park floodlights. All supporters will be made to feel very welcome.