Hopes fade as Firsts sink to Port loss

Portarlington 1sts 22pts

Portarlington 1sts 22pts

Kilkenny 1sts 6pts

THE Kilkenny First team travelled to Portarlington on Saturday with high hopes of preventing their opponents and current table toppers from stretching their lead in the Leinster League, but it wasn’t to be.

A win would have been sweet for the visitors, who were playing their first game in three weeks, but their hosts proved to be too strong and ran out comfortable winners.

Played in wet conditions the pitch provided the platform for an epic forwards’ battle. Both packs tested each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the opening quarter and Kilkenny looked like they could make a serious impression on this game.

Despite being penalised twice for early engaging in the scrum, Kilkenny soon found their footing. After 15 they took the lead when Portarlington were penalised for going off their feet. Julian Hughes’ attempt sailed between the posts and Kilkenny looked on fire.

The hosts stuck to their game-plan and five minutes later crossed the Kilkenny line to score a converted try. Kilkenny did not back down and attacked the Portarlington line repeatedly before the half-time whistle sounded, leaving the game at 7-3 in the hosts’ favour.

Portarlington upped the pressure in the second half, but were again penalised three minutes in. This time Denis Hogan stepped up in place of the injured Hughes, slotting the ball perfectly between the posts.

With the gap now just one point (7-6) Kilkenny seemed to have the upper hand. Portarlington quickly replied however and crossed the line seven minutes later to score an unconverted try.

Kilkenny regrouped and threw everything at Portarlington. Tackling became the issue of the day but Kilkenny missed some vital challenges, allowing their opponents to cross the line again 12 minutes later.

Kilkenny seemed deflated after this score, but captain Philly Ryan tried to spur on his team-mates for one final effort. Luck was not on their side however as, just ten metres from their opponent’s line, they flashed the ball out to the backs.

Portarlington’s big No 8 read the pass perfectly, intercepted the ball and ran the length of the pitch. He was tackled just short of the Kilkenny line by winger Ger Flood, but Portarlington were there in numbers and a quick off-load ensured the hosts touched down to gain the bonus point win. The conversion was missed, but the final whistle blew to confirm Kilkenny’s defeat on a 22-6 scoreline.

Best on the day for Kilkenny were tight-head prop Gavin McCarthy, scrum-half Robby Walsh and captain Philly Ryan who put in very solid performances.

Despite this setback, the Noresiders still find themselves fourth on the table. Clane have started to make an impression on the bottom half of the table and are slowly catching up on Kilkenny. With 11 points now between themselves and the league leaders, Kilkenny will have to make sure they win their remaining games to stay in contention.

The Leinster League will take a two-week break before the second round games start. Kilkenny’s next game is against New Ross on Sunday, December 4. This is a vital game for the Noresiders if they are to have any influence on the top half of the table. Kick-off in New Ross is at 2pm.

Kilkenny Firsts: Alan O’Donovan, Killian Everard, Alan Pembroke, Joe Manuel, Julian Hughes, Denis Hogan, Robby Walsh, Philly Ryan (capt), Conor Bass, Ray Pembroke, Brendan McIntyre, Gerry Clarke, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Hanrahan, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs: Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, James Blanchfield, Ger Flood, Philly Walsh.