Kilkenny are just one match and victory away from being crowned Leinster League Division 2A rugby champions following this resounding away win over Roscrea (34-12) in Streamstown on Sunday, writes Padraic Treacy.
However, Kilkenny must first dispense with bottom of the table New Ross this Sunday in Foulkstown before they can celebrate promotion to Division 1B and lift the coveted trophy. Their nearest contenders, Malahide pulled off a huge 101 point home victory against Clane on Sunday, leaving a suspense filled climax to the final games of the League this weekend.
Malahide are away to Gorey on Saturday and Kilkenny are hoping their Wexford neighbours will pull off a final surprise, leaving the path clear for the Foulkstown outfit to enjoy their clash against New Ross and celebrate what would be a fabulously contested season.
Kilkenny burst out of the blocks. With eight minutes gone they were three points in front through the boot of star Kiwi out-half, Willie Wright. This followed a penalty in the Roscrea 22 when the hosts were adjudged to have encroached the offside position.
It was Kilkenny’s southern hemisphere connection that dominated the game for the opening 10 minutes as Wright’s fellow Kiwi, Joey Manuel, scored the game’s opening try four minutes later following a blistering run. On the way to scoring he jinked and jived his way through the Roscrea defence, leaving opponents spinning in their boots before touching down just to the right of the posts. Wright duly added the conversion points.
Roscrea restarted and lofted a high ball into the visiting pack. A breakdown in communications saw Roscrea regain possession and they broke through the defence to score a converted try in the14th minute.
A rejuvenated Roscrea finally found their pace, and in the 25th minute they were again allowed slip through the normally tight opposing defence and score in the corner. They failed to add the conversion.
Kilkenny lost their awesome No. 8 Willie Duggan through injury. Duggan received a gash to the face and he had to be brought to hospital.
Kilkenny redoubled their efforts and regained control. John Phelan came on for the injured Duggan and quickly put his stamp on the game. Wright kicked deep and Kilkenny were awarded a scrum in the opposition 22. The front row of Kavanagh, Leahy and O’Shea pulverised their opponents and drove over the line.
Phelan gathered the ball and touched down to give Kilkenny the lead again. Wright added the conversion.
Roscrea were rattled. They kicked into the waiting arms of Phelan, who took off like a runaway train using his great strength to brush aside the attentions of the Roscrea defence. He was finally put to ground inside the Roscrea 22, but he offloaded superbly to Wright, who sprinted the remaining 20 metres to score under the posts leaving himself the easy task of adding the extra two points.
On the stroke of half-time, Kilkenny increased their lead and secured the valuable bonus point through a forward surge which saw hooker, Martin Leahy score in the corner. The angle was too tight for Wright and Kilkenny went into the break deserved leaders, 29-12.
The second half was played with more ferocity and passion than the first. Tempers flared on occasion but Kilkenny did exactly as was asked of them by head coach, Steve Ashmore. They put the game out of the reach of Roscrea, quickly.
Kilkenny launched an attack on their opponents line. This saw the forward pack drive strongly, punching holes in the defence. With just four minutes elapsed in the half giant winger, Alan Pembroke charged over in the corner to seal
the deal. Wright’s conversion attempt went low and across the face of the posts.
Roscrea were beaten, but they drove on. They launched a strong offensive but Kilkenny held firmly and demonstrated some of the best defensive strength of the season. Roscrea tempers flared again and two of their players receive yellow and red cards for off the ball incidents.
Kilkenny hung tough and the end drew clear, much to the delight and relief of the fans. This was a fabulous victory. The display of teamwork and sheer strength from Kilkenny was massive.
Every player gave his all. With that in mind it is impossible to pick out one player who excelled above the others. It is with great anticipation that players and supporters await the final hurdle on Sunday in what has been a long and successful season so far.
All eyes will be on the Gorey versus Malahide on Saturday and with Malahide just one point behind the leaders, Kilkenny, who cannot afford to take their eye off the ball against New Ross on Sunday. Kick-off is at 3pm. It is hoped that a huge crowd will attend to cheer on the local heroes to Leinster glory.
Kilkenny Firsts - Julian Hughes, Mark Coughlan, Philly Walsh, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Willie Duggan, Philly Ryan, Diarmaid Hickey, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Simon O’Shea, Martin Leahy, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Eddie Brennan, Tom Massey, John Phelan, Robby Walsh, Ben O’Connor.
Kilkenny Seconds provided a good platform for the First team when they scored this fine win over their opponents in Roscrea on Sunday. The visitors did not have things their own way and it wasn’t until deep in the second half that they finally found their feet in the game.
This was the proverbial game of two halves – with the first half going to the hosts and the second half to the visitors. Kilkenny enjoyed most of the possession in the opening half but could not convert it into scores. Meanwhile, Roscrea clocked up 17 points, and despite a fine try from second row James Blanchfield in the 30th minute, it looked like the game was well and truly over.
Kilkenny stuck to their guns. They produced a second half display of guts and determination and knocked the opposition out of their stride. They denied their opponents any opportunity to increase their score.
With 60 minutes elapsed Kilkenny finally took control of the game. Roscrea began to wilt and it was the fitter Kilkenny who reaped the benefits when Kevin O’Toole dived over in the corner to score Kilkenny’s second try. Out-half Gerry Callinan missing the conversion.
Eight minutes later No. 8 Rod O’Donohue burst through the Roscrea line and scored nearer the posts, giving Callinan an easier angle to add the points. Kilkenny were rolling now. With 10 minutes remaining they scored two tries through scrum-half, Victor Harper and flanker, Alan McIntyre. Callinan added the conversion on both occasions.
Kilkenny’s performance was testimony to their determination and ‘never give up’ attitude. Despite a shaky first half, they battled on until the final whistle and came out deserved winners.
Kilkenny were aided in their task by fine performances from centre, Conor Phelan, No. 8 Rod O’Donohue and flanker Alan McIntyre.
This was the final game of the Leinster League for Kilkenny. They can be satisfied with securing fourth place in the table, only five points behind current leaders Malahide. Their next outing is on March 17 away to Athy in the Plate.
Kilkenny Seconds - Clive Grehan, Shane Raftery, Conor Phelan, Kevin O’Toole, Alan O’Donovan, Gerry Callinan, Victor Harper, Ronan O’Donohue, Alan McIntyre, Ray Pembroke, James Blanchfield, Brendan McIntyre, Dave Matthews, Emmet Lynch, Darren Bawle. Subs - Eddie Brennan, Tom Massey, Leon Madigan, Vinnie O’Shea, Barry Daly.