DESPITE being the better side for much of this game between old rivals, the Kilkenny under-17s had to rely on a last-gasp Cormac Connolly try and conversion to share the points with Athy.
Saturday’s entertaining Leinster League clash brought a well-deserved result as Kilkenny showed real character to earn a share of the spoils and deny the hosts at the death. The final score saw the side bounce back well from some defensive lapses which allowed Athy in for three tries, all of which could have been prevented. Two of those were picked off by the dynamic Athy number 8 Jeremy Loughman who, along with Kilkenny captain Gary Dunne, was outstanding on the field.
As Athy started brightly Kilkenny struggled to match their hosts. Athy out-half Joe Carbury cleverly dictated his forwards’ play, allowing Loughman and centre King to run at Kilkenny with ball in hand. Kilkenny scrambled well, despite losing the first three scrums against the head, and looked comfortable until the game reached the 18th minute. Athy, skilfully attacking the blind side, spun the ball wide. With the defence marking three on three and no space available, a lack of communication allowed the Athy winger to score unopposed.
Kilkenny finally got on the attack. Good mauling and rucking brought play to Athy’s line where they eventually scored through prop Nicky Feehan. With Kilkenny in control of the game Feehan made another great break to half-way but although the visitors created a huge overlap the chance was not capitalised on. The ball was lost in contact, before Loughman gathered and set off on a straight line to the corner to score a well-taken try.
Trailing 10-5 at half-time Kilkenny were left reeling on the restart, as first King and then Loughman ran at the visitors’ defence. Beating a string of tackles Loughman eventually scored a converted try under the posts to leave Kilkenny 17-5 behind and seemingly in trouble.
Slowly but surely, Kilkenny’s play became more organised and the pack started to dominate. Sticking to the task, after 20 minutes of non stop attacking in the second half a perfectly struck Moran penalty brought play ten yards from the Athy line. From there, a perfectly-executed line out saw the pack drive over for an unconverted try to leave the score at 17-7 points with seven minutes remaining.
Athy almost made an instant reply when they attacked for the first time in the half. Kilkenny were slow to align in defence, allowing Loughman to break a tackle and set the winger free, but he was stopped just yards from the line by a great cover tackle by Moran yards from the line.
With time running out Kilkenny ran the ball simply and directly for the first time in the game, using their rugby skills to create an clear overlap for Jack Drew, but full-back Connolly kicked long and just failed to hold the bounce with a clear path to the line. The Kilkenny scrum put pressure on the Athy put in and Connolly, quick out of the traps, blocked down the clearance kick before gathering to score under the posts before Moran converted with the last kick of the game to share the points.
Next up for Kilkenny is a game away to Carlow. Kick-off on Saturday is 12 noon. Training continues tomorrow (Thursday) at 7pm, with new players welcome. With the Leinster League concluding in three weeks a series of development games will be held for panel members. Further information from Mick McGrath, tel 086-8242735.
Kilkenny: Cormac Connolly, Colin Corcoran, Sean Moran, Patrick Mullen, Will Bergin, Jack Hutchinson, Ciaran Sutton, Nick Feehan, John Curtin, James Rafter, Ciaran Martin, Cian Smith, Tom Cuddihy, Craig Murphy, Gary Dunne. Subs: Aaron Summers, Robbie Hennessy, Jack Drew, Luke Rafter, Danny Nolan, Shaun Fitzgerald, David Sutton.