Ideal weather in Portarlington on Sunday provided the perfect platform for Kilkenny Firsts to launch their next attack on the Leinster League title.
The visitors dished out a good beating to the locals. This was a vital win because it brought the Cats closer to the leading group of Ashbourne, Malahide and Monkstown on the Division 1B table.
With Ashbourne seeing off Monkstown and Malahide scoring an extremely lucky win against Kilkenny’s next opponents Wicklow, the top four in the group have started to move closer together while simultaneously pulling away from the bottom group.
Kilkenny are scheduled to play the top three teams in the coming weeks. Wins are vital against these teams if the Foulkstown outfit are to survive.
Kilkenny outshone their opponents in every aspect of the game, from the scrums and lineouts and with their inventive back-line manoeuvres which overwhelmed the Portarlington defence. As a result of immense pressure, cracks began to appear quickly in the host teams defensive lines.
With seven minutes played Kilkenny were handed their first opportunity to open the scoring. Portarlington were caught off-side at a ruck about five metres inside their own half. A confident Willie Wright stepped up and pointed at the posts. His effort hit the upright and bounced back out field into the arms of a Portarlington forward.
The visitors reacted quickly and surrounded the man in possession. The ball was flashed out quickly along the back line to winger Killian Everard, who made great ground but was stopped about 10 metres out from the line. He off-loaded to Wes Carter, who dashed over for the opening try. Wright added the conversion.
It was one-way-traffic from here on, particular so after incidents in the 19th and 21st minutes when Portarlington had two men sin-binned for repeated infringements. Kilkenny capitalised and scored another 12 points.
With 23 minutes played flanker David O’Connor used his immense strength and agility to cross the line for the second try. Wright converted. Centre Podge Mahon scored a try a short time later with Wright’s conversion hitting the upright once more.
Portarlington did manage a penalty kick late in the half which also saw a visiting player leave the pitch for a breather following a presumed high-tackle. The half ended 19-3 in Kilkenny’s favour.
Despite a better and stronger start from the hosts, Kilkenny managed to open the scoring three minutes into the new half through a fabulous individual try from Killian Everard. He ripped down the touchline before stepping inside a defender and touching down under the posts.
Wright added the points as he did seven minutes later when he landed a fine penalty kick. This was Wright’s last act for the day as he suffered a minor injury and was removed from the pitch as a precautionary measure.
Portarlington managed to score a try in the 57th minute. The opposition quickly replied when out-half Sean Moran burst through and scored under the posts, adding the conversion in Wright’s absence.
This was without doubt one of the best performances of the season and shows the massive improvement not only in Kilkenny’s skill and ability levels, but also in attitude. With these key points on board Kilkenny can be confident facing Wicklow, who put up a brave fight against Malahide and only lost by a point.
It is hard to choose who performed best for Kilkenny. Every player performed above and beyond the call of duty. However, Killian Everard sparkled. His blistering speed was a huge factor. His unselfishness and team spirit were his best characteristics. Wes Carter and Martin Leahy also played very well.
Kick off in Foulkstown on Sunday against Wicklow is 2.30pm. The Kilkenny Seconds play in the curtain-raiser against the same opposition (1pm).
Kilkenny Firsts - Joey Manuel, Denis Hogan, Podge Mahon, Philly Walsh, Killian Everard, Sean Moran, Willie Wright, Darragh Farragher, Lee Wilson, David O’Connor, Wes Carter, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Hugh O’Brien. Subs - Ronan O’Donoghue, Ray Pembroke, Brian Howe, Tom Massey, Kevin O’Toole.
Kilkenny Seconds drilled out a great win in Athy on Saturday in a game played in atrocious conditions. The wind and rain-swept Athy venue did nothing to encourage the small crowd that travelled.
Kilkenny scored a try through Ronan O’Donoghue and a penalty from the boot of Barry Daly to steal the win and put them in second place on the table behind Monkstown, with a game in hand. Despite the dreadful conditions every player gave 100%, in particular Ronan O’Donoghue, Ray Pembroke, Tom Carroll and Gary Dunne.
Kilkenny Seconds - Alan O’Donovan, Kevin O’Toole, Cormac Connolly, Denis Hogan, Ger Flood, Barry Daly, Ronnie Moran, Ronan O’Donoghue, Gary Dunne, Emmet Carey, Darragh Morrissey, James Blanchfield, Brian Howe, John Curtin, Paddy Boeye. Subs - James Rafter, Ray Pembroke, Richie Connolly, W Bergin, Brian Nolan.