Kilkenny Firsts and Seconds rugby teams made the long journey to Mullingar on Sunday and both returned victorious. The cold and foggy weather did not make for ideal rugby conditions, making the ground soft, thus hampering any chance of exciting running rugby.
The Seconds fared the better of the two teams when they beat the home team by 29-8 while the Firsts secured a 15-7 win in a nail-biting game. The mood following the Firsts match sombre. However, spirits were lifted when news came through that Malahide had failed to secure a bonus point in Roscrea, despite winning13-5 in a closely fought contest.
Kilkenny Firsts were without doubt the superior team. Mullingar were prepared to give them a fight and make amends for the 38-15 savaging they received in Foulkstown in October. They kept the visitors from scoring during the opening quarter until Willie Wright landed a superb long range kick from just inside the Mullingar half.
He missed the opportunity to extend the lead five minutes later, but help was on hand when Philly Walsh broke through the Mullingar defence on 31 minutes to score in the corner. Wrights conversion attempt rebounded off the post.
Following the restart, and with three minutes elapsed since Walsh’s try, full-back, Alan O’Donovan dived over the line to score in the opposite corner. Wright’s conversion kick again hit the post, but Lady Luck smiled on the young Kiwi as the ball cannoned off the post and went over.
The travelling Kilkenny fans could see a repeat of last week’s Clane performance on the cards as Kilkenny went into the break comfortable 15-0 leaders.
Mullingar found new vigour in the second half and began to control the game. From a Kilkenny viewpoint, they missed two relatively easy kicking chances in the sixth and 13th minutes. The just reward for their efforts came in the 18th minute when they charged over the line to score an easily converted try.
Mullingar now used every ounce of energy they could muster up and piled on the pressure. Kilkenny remained solid and sure for the remaining 20 minutes of the game and justifiably came away victors.
The top of the table remains unchanged, with Kilkenny still with their nose in front of chasers Malahide. It was an important win for the Cats away from home, and they will have to maintain this level of performance for their remaining matches.
With man-of-the-match titles going to back-row players for the past number of weeks, No.7 Johnny Harper maintained this record again this week having turned in a superb display of attacking and defensive rugby. The trio of Harper, Duggan and Ryan were a joy to witness as they took on the Mullingar team time and time again.
Kilkenny are at home on Sunday to Portlaoise, who they also meet in the first round of the Towns Cup a week later, Sunday, January 27. A win is a must. Kilkenny hope to have a big crowd in Foulkstown for both these encounters. Kick off on Sunday is 2.30pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Alan O’Donovan, Alan Pembroke, Philly Walsh, Joey Manuel, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Willie Wright, Willie Duggan, Johnny Harper, Philly Ryan (capt), Diarmaid Hickey, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea. Subs - Wayne Kavanagh, Ray Pembroke, Emmet Lynch, Clive Kavanagh, Gerry Callinan.