This South East League rugby clash in Foulkstown began to lose its momentum early as the game set to be played on Saturday was moved to Friday night, thus accounting for the lack of local support. Spirits were further dampened when on arrival on Friday, Wexford announced they could not field a full team and conceded the points. Kilkenny 1sts won 34-10.
In addition, Kilkenny Seconds were denied the chance to make amends for their narrow defeat at the hands of Carlow the previous week when Wexford again mid-week announced they could not field a full team.
With nothing to lose but lots to gain, head coach Steve Ashmore tried out a number of prospective First team players and experiment with his squad. Wexford were strengthened by the addition of two Kilkenny players, Eddie Brennan and Gavin McCarthy, who gladly volunteered their services.
Surprisingly the visitors managed to keep Kilkenny at bay for the opening quarter. It was a Kilkenny man who opened the scoring after 16 minutes, when Eddie Brennan charged over the line to score a well-earned try for his new found team mates! Wexford added the conversion. Kilkenny trailed by seven points and were left wondering what was happening!
This was the wake-up call they required. They pounded the Wexford defence thereafter. Repeating the efforts against Carlow and assisted by the fast hands and clever decisions from newly signed out-half Stephen Brennan, Joey Manuel and Alan Pembroke repeatedly pummelled the Wexford line, supported in every attempt by mighty duo Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan.
With 21 minutes gone scrum-half Victor Harper touched down in the corner. The referee was ideally placed to ensure that Harper had not entered touch before he scored. Clive Grehan missed the conversion. Four minutes later, Alan O’Donovan scored in the opposite corner. The conversion attempt from Grehan hit the upright and bounced back in-field.
Despite the continued battering Wexford held. They managed to keep their heads and in the 28th minute Kilkenny were penalised for collapsing a maul. This provided Wexford the opportunity to level the scores. The score remained 10-10 going into the break.
Ashmore had some stern but encouraging words for his players and Kilkenny began the second half with new vigour. Receiving the kick, Kilkenny smartly gained possession and control. With six minutes gone, winger Rod Hogan claimed his first try. Grehan missed the conversion. Wexford held out for the next 15 minutes and on one or two occasions they looked like scoring, were it not for some superb defensive tackling from Grehan, Lee Wilson and David Walsh.
Flood gates open
With 21 minutes gone the flood gates opened. Kilkenny piled on the pressure. Duggan broke through the defence to score following a forward surge. Minutes later Hogan was again on hand to get his second try. This time Grehan was on target with the conversion.
With little time left Hogan again scored having intercepted a pass deep in his own half. The speedy winger was not to be caught as he touched down under the posts, completing a hat-trick of tries. Grehan added the conversion.
Despite a shaky start, this was a good all-round performance from Kilkenny which keeps them in contention for a place in the final. Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan were the driving force with Stephen Brennan, Lee Wilson, David Walsh and Johnny Harper putting in solid performances.
Kilkenny have a break until September 16 when they take on Gorey in the next round of the South East League. This gives Kilkenny time to step up preparations for the upcoming Leinster League opener against Malahide on September 30. Gorey should provide a bigger challenge than their neighbours Wexford.
Gorey will be looking for revenge for their loss to Kilkenny in last year’s Towns Cup quarter-final. The stage is set for a cracking game of rugby. Kick off in Gorey is 3pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Clive Grehan, Alan O’Donovan, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Rory O’Brien, Stephen Brennan, Victor Harper, Willie Duggan, Lee Wilson, Leon Madigan, David Walsh, Victor Ryan, Darren Bawle, Tom Massey, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, Simon O’Shea, Johnny Harper, Rod Hogan.