A SOMEWHAT complacent Kilkenny squad took to the pitch on Sunday and very nearly paid the price for their lack of fighting spirit against a more motivated Portlaoise side in the Leinster rugby league. Despite the dismal conditions and trailing 14-3 at half-time, Kilkenny pulled the game out of the fire in the second half and romped home to a well-earned bonus point victory, winning 35-14.
Kilkenny missed out on scoring two tries in the first half when prop Simon O’Shea and out-half Willie Wright knocked the ball forward before crossing the line. Wright made amends for the missed effort with a fine penalty kick a short time later.
Portlaoise, to Kilkenny’s fortune, missed two easy chances at goal, however. Had they converted those chances the outcome could have been entirely different.
Portlaoise did score two converted tries before half-time, and it looked like Kilkenny’s unbeaten run was going to end.
Head coach Steve Ashmore did not leave much to the imagination during his half-time ‘pep-talk’ and a reinvigorated Kilkenny squad blasted onto the pitch in the second half.
Kilkenny’s first try came from winger Killian Everard, whose lightning speed saw him dash clear to score under the posts. Wright added the conversion. Kilkenny had control of the set pieces and following a surge from the forwards, prop Wayne Kavanagh charged over the line for a toauch down. Wright again added the conversion.
The winners applied heavy pressure on the Portlaoise defence and Wright got a touch down in the corner. He missed the opportunity to convert, however, but he did add a further two penalties to his tally before the mighty Joey Manuel superbly split the Portlaoise defence in two and scored under the posts to secure the valuable bonus point for the visitors.
Wright landed 20 points
Wright again added the conversion to bring his personal tally for the game to 20 points, and his success rate to 17 out of 30 kicks from four games since joining the club in early October. The closing stages were played in torrential rain and the players were delighted to hear the final whistle.
Kilkenny are now five points clear of the chasing group of Malahide, Gorey and Roscrea in the leaguae tabale. Malahide, surprisingly, just managed to beat bottom of the table New Ross 15-0. Roscrea seem to be experiencing a downer of late and were beaten for a second week running, this time by a stronger Gorey side (15-22).
Roscrea have slipped to fourth place, seven points behind Kilkenny. The race for promotion to Division 1 now looks as if it will be between these four teams. Kilkenny have a lot of work to do to maintain their unbeaten record.
Kilkenny Seconds are hoping for a win against Roscrea on Sunday to get their Leinster League campaign back on track following defeat to Portlaoise (22-8). Kick-off in Foulkstown against Roscrea is 1pm and 2.30pm respectively.
Kilkenny Firsts - Julian Hughes, Clive Grehan, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Killian Everard, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Philly Ryan, John Harper, Ray Pembroke, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea. Subs - Wayne Kavanagh, Tom Massey, Ger Costello, Stephen Brennan, Kevin O’Toole.
ON A crisp and sunny autumnal afternoon the Kilkenny under-13 team took to the road to renew acquaintances with Gorey RFC. Recent matches between the sides had proven tight affairs but Kilkenny, with one eye on a likely South Eastern League fixture between the sides, were anxious to lay down a marker.
From the kick-off the game descended into a forward battle with both sides attempting to get the upper hand at the breakdown. A tight encounter ensued and it was the closing minutes of the first half before Kilkenny broke the deadlock and managed to get the first points on the scoreboard.
Kilkenny had been camped on the Gorey 5-metre line when Tadhg Butler crashed over for a touchdown. Kilkenny failed to add the extras and the score remained 0-5 at half-time.
Hostilities resumed and Gorey, in front of a vocal local support, pushed hard to get back into the game. Kilkenny were prepared for the onslaught, however, and struck first when team captain, Cian McCormack touched down at the corner flag for another unconverted try after some fine support play by the team.
Rather than hurting Gorey, the score spurred them on. They fought back to grab a fine try, which was converted from a difficult angle. The game was in the balance. Gorey sniffed an opportunity and applied heavy pressure.
Their backline finally clicked and it was all hands on deck in the Kilkenny rearguard to preserve their narrow lead. Adam O’Brien, Padraig O’Neill and Killian FitzGerald all played their part in keeping Gorey at bay.
Kilkenny weathered the storm and Killian Egan, who put in yet another barnstorming display from Number 8, barrelled over under the posts for a trademark score. Alex Hatt added the extras. With the bit of breathing room Kilkenny started to play with more openness.
Hooker Colm Kealy grabbed a try and winger Killian Fitzgerald capped a fine individual display with the final score that saw Kilkenny home 27-7 winnere.
Next up is the South Eastern League semi-final.
Kilkenny under-13 team - Cian McCormack (capt), Seamus Farrell, Glen Gormley, Ultan Conroy, Tadhg Butler, Jamie Dwan, William Ashe Doyle, Killian Egan, Odhran Lawlor, Alex Hatt, Luke Hogan, Jack Brennan, Padraig O’Neill, Killian Fitzgerald, Liam Brennan Smyth, Colm Kealy, Adam O’Brien, Killian Dolan, Charles Farrell , Oisin Morrissey, Jordan Butler.