THE KILKENNY Youths advanced to the quarter-finals of the Culliton Cup on Saturday, overcoming a huge challenge from a committed New Ross side.
Despite being underdogs New Ross were confident of causing an upset. They came close to doing that as Kilkenny had to rescue the game from the fire, coming from behind with six minutes remaining through an excellent converted try from Sean Moran to leave the hosts kicking themselves.
Kilkenny got off to a slow start and were punished as Ross tackled and dispossessed Kilkenny players in the contact area at will. Given the lead thanks to a penalty from their scrum-half Gavin Weir Wexford grew in confidence and took the game to Kilkenny.
The game got even better for Wexford when, after 19 minutes, their prop O’Brien ran into the wall of Kilkenny players who parted like the Red Sea and allowed O’Brien to cross the line for a converted try.
Kilkenny finally woke up and came into the game when, on 26 minutes, some excellent attacking play ended with Gary Dunne scoring in the right corner. Kilkenny attacked from then to the break and could have been awarded a penalty try - after four forward drives a New Ross player deliberately infringed in the ruck as Kilkenny were about to score. Opting for the scrum instead of taking points to narrow the gap Kilkenny were penalised, allowing Ross to clear their lines and stay 10-5 ahead at half-time.
Playing against the hill Kilkenny made a bright start to the second half. When they secured a lineout on the Ross five metre line a levelling score looked on, but a crooked feed allowed Ross off the hook. For the next 25 minutes they kept Kilkenny pinned deep in their own 22. A try-saving tackle by Paddy Mullen in the left corner saved the visitors, while a mix-up by centres Moran and Jordan almost sealed the game for New Ross as the tackle was not made, but the hosts failed to take advantage. New Ross should have sealed the game when, with eight minutes left, Kilkenny indiscipline gave the leaders a penalty almost in front of the posts on the 22.
The kick hit the outside of the posts and went wide - much to Kilkenny relief, as an eight point gap could have sealed their fate.
With the kick went the New Ross side’s chance of victory, as Kilkenny showed great character and tactical awareness to win the game. Winning the restart, they patiently worked the ball up the pitch, retaining possession and driving the defence backwards until a gap occurred. With quick hands the ball was transferred to Sean Moran, whose break resulted in a great try.
Moran converted the difficult kick and Kilkenny, who finally took the game to New Ross, finished on the offensive. Their pressure produced a string of penalties to keep New Ross pegged back in their half until the final whistle. With Kilkenny now playing the winners of Clane and Clondalkin, a semi-final berth is attainable if the locals take the game to their opponents from the start.
Kilkenny: Cormac Connolly, Paddy Mullen, Hugh Lane, Adam Jordan, Rikki Drennan, Sean Moran, Robbie Corcoran, Mick King, John Curtin, Darren Knox, Darragh Morrissey, Tadhg O’Carroll, Liam McWey, Gary Dunne, Diarmuid Hickey. Subs: Conor Quinlan, Will Bergin, Ciaran Sutton, James Rafter.