The 2012/2013 rugby season got off to a great start for Kilkenny on Sunday when they travelled the short distance up the M9 to meet arch-rivals, County Carlow in the first leg of the South-East League and they scored a fine 10-8 win, writes Padraic Treacy.
With Pat McDonald no longer at the helm, the travelling Kilkenny fans eagerly awaited the unveiling of his replacement, Steve Ashmore’s new-look team. Ashmore and his assistant David ‘Doc’ O’Connor did not disappoint the fans as the visitors took the honours.
It was an evenly matched contest from the beginning with neither side giving the other an inch. Both teams pressed hard and tested each other out with great runs and inventive moves.
Centre Joe Manuel took on the Carlow defence time and time again and the support from his team mates was formidable. The game was 27 minutes old when the first points went on the board.
Kilkenny were penalised in their 22, directly in front of the posts. The Carlow out-half made no mistake and Carlow took the lead to the delight of their supporters. Two minutes later Kilkenny were awarded a penalty about 30 metres out.
Julian Hughes stepped up to take the kick but his effort just sailed across the posts and went wide. On 32 minutes Kilkenny were again awarded a penalty, this time Hughes did not miss and the sides were level.
Kilkenny upped their game. Joe Manuel and Alan Pembroke repeatedly battered the Carlow backline. With 10 minutes left, Carlow had a player sent to the sin-bin. Kilkenny capitalised and Manuel finally broke through and sprinted for the line.
As he reached the Carlow try line he unselfishly turned and passed the ball to Darren McGrath, who got the touch down and his name on the scoreboard! Hughes converted. Kilkenny were in the driving seat.
The half-time whistle blew with Kilkenny 10-3 in front.
The second half was much the same as the first with both teams testing each other and looking for that elusive break. Kilkenny lost Manuel through injury and Victor Harper came on to take over the scrum-half duties. McGrath moved to the vacant centre position. Willie Duggan was brought on for Ger Costello to add more strength to the pack.
Carlow piled on the pressure and in the 37th minute they finally crossed the Kilkenny line. However, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful. The game ended 10–8 in Kilkenny’s favour.
The winners put in a fine display overall. The forwards played fabulously and produced quick and clean ball for the backs. With the return of Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan, this provides great strength up front and a platform for the backs to shine. With players such as Killian Everard, Robby and Philly Walsh still set to make their return the future looks bright!
This was a superb team effort, and best on the day for Kilkenny were Joe Manuel, Victor Ryan, Mick Hannigan and Lee Wilson.
Kilkenny take on Wexford in Foulkstown on Saturday in the next leg of the South East League. Wexford were heavily beaten on Saturday by Enniscorthy (47-9), so a win for Kilkenny is vital to stay in the running. Kick off in Foulkstown is 6pm.
Kilkenny Ists - Alan O’Donovan, Shane Raferty, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Kieran Ormonde, Julian Hughes, Darren McGrath, Philly Ryan (C), Lee Wilson, Ger Costelloe, Victor Ryan, Gerry Clarke, Mick Hannigan, Stephen Murphy, Simon O’Shea.
Subs: David Buckley, Darren Bawle, Willie Duggan, Victor Harper, Stephen Brennan.
No luck as Seconds crash in dying stages
Kilkenny 2nds 17pts
KILKENNY Seconds were not as lucky as the Firsts in their South East League clash in Carlow on Sunday. Despite having dominated the game throughout, they were pipped at the post in the dying minutes. However, newly elected Seconds coach, Nigel Daly was happy with the overall performance.
Kilkenny were the superior team and played the better and more inventive rugby. Carlow, however, managed to open the scoring on 25 minutes when they capitalised on a lapse in concentration by Kilkenny. They crashed over the line for a fine converted try.
Kilkenny regained control from the restart and three minutes later winger Mick Meany dived over the line to score a superb try on his debut for the Foulkstowners. Clive Grehan was unlucky not to get the extra two points as his conversion attempt hit the post.
With Kilkenny trailing by two points going into the second half, full-back Grehan made amends for his first half miss when he scored a fabulous try in the first minute. Kilkenny’s out-half Stephen Brennan quickly flashed the ball out to his backs and with Grehan driving at pace, he broke through the Carlow defence and touched down under the posts.
He added the conversion to give Kilkenny a well-earned lead. On 18 minutes Grehan was again on hand when he made a fine break along the touchline and scored in the corner. His attempt at the conversion fell just short of the target.
Carlow seemed to be rattled but they were handed a lifeline when they crossed the Kilkenny line in the 27th minute to narrow the gap. Five minutes later they were handed a second gift when Kilkenny were penalised for a late tackle.
The Carlow kicker made no mistake. He levelled the score line at 17-17. It looked like Kilkenny would have to settle for the draw.
Despite having defended superbly, cracks began to show in the Kilkenny defence. The Carlow pack drove over the line to score a try and defy the visitors. Their out-half missed the conversion and the game ended 22-17 in favour of the hosts.
Despite the narrow loss, this was a fabulous performance from Kilkenny. Each and every player gave their all. Best were Johnny Harper, Eamonn Mahony, Stephen Brennan, Gareth Hayes and Clive Grehan and especially brothers Mick and Sean Meany, who not only made their debuts, but also played their first ever competitive game of rugby.
Kilkenny take on Wexford next in the South East League on Saturday. Kick-off 6pm
Kilkenny 2nds - Clive Grehan, Ronnie Moran, Shane Brennan, Gareth Hayes, Mick Meany, Stephen Brennan, Victor Harper, Alan McIntyre, Paddy Walsh, Leon Madigan, Eamonn Mahony, Emmet Carey, Darren Bawle, Emmet Lynch, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Johnny Harper, Shane Lacey, Richard Harper, Martin Leahy, Sean Meany.