Kilkenny’s unbeaten run in the Leinster Rugby League came to an end in an abrupt manner on Sunday against second place Malahide. With driving rain and wind blowing in from the Irish Sea, both sets of fans were entertained beyond expectations in what was an epic battle for the top position, the home side winning 23-16, writes Padraic Treacy.
However, all was not lost, and Kilkenny’s sheer determination saw them secure the losing bonus point which helped them stay top of the table by that single point.
The visitors burst out of the blocks and drove their opponents back constantly during the opening 30 minutes. Malahide had an early chance to take the lead through a penalty, but the attempt went wide of the posts.
The first cruel blow came Kilkenny’s way in the 20th minute when Malahide crashed over the line and scored a try. Kilkenny out-half, Willie Wright missed a chance to narrow the deficit in the 29th minute which left the half-time score 7-0 to Malahide.
The losers were fired up at the beginning of the second half. However, it was the hosts who got to the scoreboard first. Kilkenny were penalised at the ruck and the Malahide scrum-half made no mistake with the kick.
The visitors hit back straight away and forced the opposition into an error two minutes later. Wright got his name on the scoreboard when he landed a fine kick at the posts. Four minute later he added another.
Kilkenny looked like they could snatch the game from the jaws of defeat. However, Malahide increased their lead in the 55th and 59th minute with two penalty kicks. They added a further seven points three minutes later when Kilkenny allowed them through to score their second try.
At this point most visiting teams would have conceded defeat, but not this gutsy Foulkstown squad. Eddie Brennan lifted Kilkenny’s hopes further when he took on the Malahide defence on the five metre line and drove over the line to score a try under the posts. Wright easily added the conversion and closed the gap to 10 points.
Kilkenny hit their opponents with everything they had, but with time running out they had to change their tactics and pressed hard to gain the losing bonus point. With 80 minutes gone it seemed their luck had run out, but they maintained the pressure.
Deep in injury-time Malahide were penalised just inside their 10 metre line, handing Wright and the opposition the opportunity to gain the valuable point. It was a superb kick and the travelling Kilkenny supporters roared with delight as the ball sailed between the posts. T
o the frustration of Malahide, Kilkenny were still top of the table.
All in all it was a good performance from Kilkenny, who can only blame themselves for allowing their opponents too much space with the ball. At times the losers displayed a hesitant approach to their attacking game. They could have scored a few more points had they reacted quicker to opportunities they were presented with.
Willie Duggan took the ‘man of the match’ award for his sheer strength with ball in hand moving forward and his tackle count. Philly Walsh was solid at full back but might be more suited to a centre position given his running strength.
Malahide are back in with a chance at the promotion spot, but Gorey are also back in the running following their win against Clane on Saturday (45-12), which brought them to within four points of the leaders.
Kilkenny face Gorey on Sunday in Foulkstown. A win is vital for the home side. In fact, they cannot afford to lose any games now. Every bonus point has to be attained and they can only hope that Malahide falter somewhere in their remaining matches. Kick-off is at 2pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Philly Walsh, Alan O’Donovan, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Shane Raferty, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Willie Duggan, Johnny Harper, Philly Ryan, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Simon O’Shea, Tom Massey, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Diarmaid Hickey, Kevin O’Toole, Rod Hogan.
Despite dominating the first half, Kilkenny could not break through the tough tackling Malahide defence on Sunday in this Leinster League clash.
With the half-time scoreline reading 3-0 to the hosts, Kilkenny had it all to play for in the second half. Unfortunately it was not to be and they clocked up yet another disappointing defeat.
Barry Daly pulled on his boots this week to replace Gerry Callanan, who was not available to play. In typical Daly fashion, the replacement landed Kilkenny’s only score of the game with a fine penalty kick.
Kilkenny will be looking to get their League campaign back on track against Gorey on Sunday. Kick off in Foulkstown is at 12.30pm.
Kilkenny Seconds - Vinnie O’Shea, Rod Hogan, Kevin O’Toole, Clive Grehan, Ger Flood, Barry Daly, Victor Harper, Ger Costello, Alan McIntyre, Ronan O’Donoghue, James Blanchfield, Ray Pembroke, Darren Bawle, Emmet Lynch, Martin Leahy. Subs - Dave Matthews, Johnny Madden, Lewis Bel Maguire, Kieran Ormonde.