Joe Manuel on the charge for Kilkenny
Following the final whistle there was a lot of head scratching. How did Kilkenny lose this J1 Leinster League tie?
Longford RFC made the long journey to Foulkstown for what was a tit-for-tat affair between two sided who have genuine ambitions of wining the league. They lefyt 34-30 winners.
Following a minute’s silence in tribute to the late Willie Duggan, referee Ian Thompson got proceedings under way. From the Longford kick off, Kilkenny looked to release their threatening back line, but a miscommunication resulted in a crossing infringement.
Longford were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. The goal kicker made no mistake.
Kilkenny recovered quickly and were awarded a penalty on their own 10 meter. Jake McDonald’s kick to touch took play to the Longford five meter line, but the opportunity came to nothing.
In the sixth minute, from his own 22 meter line, Kilkenny wing Joe Manuel put up a garryowen and put pressure on the receiver. A big tackle resulted in Kilkenny winning possession.
Dearan McGrath recycled possession, and the home side won a penalty for off side. McDonald kicked to the corner.
This time the lineout went according to plan. Canadian second row, Andy Nyenhuis, took the ball down and following strong work by the pack, hooker Ben Devlin touched down. McDonald failed to land the conversion (5-3).
From the kick off Longford were awarded another penalty which was converted. In the 12th minute McDonald put Kilkenny 8-6 up following some Longford indiscipline at a break down.
From the kick off Longford claimed possession, Kilkenny failing to contest against impressive No. 5 Anthony Hughes, who gathered and took play inside the home 10 meter line.
From the breakdown two missed tackles gifted Sean McGuinness a try. Kicker Daniel McHugh converted (13-8).
McHugh kicked Longford 8-16 in front after 23 minutes. The Kilkenny forwards just weren't on song.
Coach Dermot Dunne took action and introduced Wes Carter, who made an immediate impact. On the half hour Carter won a five meter lineout.
Andy Nyenhuis broke off the maul and touched down in the corner. McDonald's kick was off again.
On the stroke of half time Longford scored a try. McHugh made no mistake with the cojnversion.
Half-time: Longford 23; Kilkenny 13.
Dunne called for more pride in the jersey for the new half, and better returns from the forwards. Martin Leahy replaced Devlin at hooker, and Simon O'Shea made way for Mark Dempsey at tighthead.
The changes had an immediate impact. Leahy’s work rate was huge, while Dempsey made the first meaningful carry when stopped short of the line.
Kilkenny won a lineout. They drove forward, and when given an advantage, McDonald scored (20-23). Game on.
In the 45th minute Longford missed a penalty. From McDonald's 22 drop out, openside Jason Connolly put in what looked a fair tackle to win possession.
The referee called foul. Longford kicked the lead back up to six points.
From here on Kilkenny found their best game. Longford were reduced to 14 and the home pack dominated.
The game plan was simple. Get the ball wide to Manuel. With every possession he made multiple yards and defenders struggled with his explosive carries.
On the hour Manuel made another burst but was stopped just short. McGrath recycled the ball. Following a few phases Graham Logan scored the fourth try, which secured Kilkenny a bonus point. The conversion was missed (25-27).
The game was there for Kilkenny. In the 76th minute Kilkenny were awarded a penalty deep in the opposing half.
Wes Carter took a quick tap, off loaded to Manuel, who accelerated forward.
When stopped, team captain Podge Mahon was quick in support. The latter raced forward to touch down to the right of the posts. the converesion was missed.
With three minutes remaining it looked game over. Longford adopted a bold approach.
From the kick off they forced a penalty, took a quick tap, and after five phases No 9 Finbar McGowan passed to Dylan Quinn, who scored the winning try. The conversion points were added.
Kilkenny were very, very disappointed, especially after getting into a winning position so late in the game. The only consolation was that the home side gained two bonus points.
Inconsistency over the 80 minutes cost Kilkenny, something which was a common theme over the last few seasons.
Dermot Dunne and his coaching team have done an excellent job, but the players needs to ask hard questions of themselves.
The back line excelled, but Kilkenny gave the visitors too much respect. The result dented Kilkenny's title ambitions, but all is not lost.
The return of Wes Carter after being out for 18 months through injury is a big positive for Kilkenny.
The half time introductions of Martin Leahy and Mark Dempsey turned Kilkenny's fortunes. Leahy is a forceful player who brings a no nonsense, hard working attitude to the game.
There were some super individual performers for Kilkenny. Jason Connolly put in an excellent shift. His tackle count was in the high teens.
Lyndon Brannigan put in a performance of considerable merit, and carried and tackled tenaciously.
Center Ti Lewington was good too. Joe Manuel led the Kilkenny charge with determination and hunger. He was outstanding. His carries and hand offs were immense.
Kilkenny are free next weekend, but they travel to Portloaise the following week. The week off will give the coaching team time to reflect on this disappointing result.
The fitness of a few in the squad will have to be improved, however.
The Kilkenny Seconds match was cancelled because Longford could not field a team. Coaches Barry Daly and Derek Lawler had a strong team available.
Kilkenny Ists - Hugh O'Brien, Ben Devlin (M. Leahy ht), Simon O'Shea (M. Dempsey ht), Idris Rqibi (W. Carter 25min), Andy Nyenhuis, Darragh Farragher, Jason Connolly, Graham Logan, Dearan McGrath, Jake McDonald, Lyndon Branigan, Titapu Lewington, Podge Mahon, Joe Manuel, Liam Caddy (S. Moran 55min).
Replacements - Mark Dempsey, Martin Leahy, Wes Carter, Sean Moran, Ciaran Sutton.
Scorers - Ben Devlin (1 try, 5 pts); Andy Nienhuis (1 try, 5pts); Joe Manuel (1 try, 5 pts); Graham Logan (1 try, 5 pts); Podge Mahon (1 try, 5 pts); Jake McDonald (5 pts, penalty and conversion).
October 15 - J1 Leinster League Division 1B, Kilkenny v Portlaoise (a), ko 3pm; J2 Leinster League Division 1B,
Kilkenny v Portlaoise (a), ko 1.30pm.