Napoleon once said that “no one but myself can be blamed for my fall. I have been my own greatest enemy, the cause of my own disastrous fate.”
Kilkenny could have been described as the near-authors of their own downfall in this Leinster Junior League Division 1B tie, which took a lot of twists and turns.
At half-time Kilkenny trailed North Kildare by eight points. They looked to be in big trouble.
At the final whistle they were unconvincing winners. They were their own worst enemies, allowing a gallant North Kildare, who are second from bottom in the league, to have a chance of snatching a win.
Kilkenny were without cousins Jake and Aiden McDonald in addition to second row Graham Logan, who is following a back to play protocol.
During the opening five minutes Kilkenny looked a class act. From a midfield scrum Ti Lewington made a good break and on the Kildare 22m line off-loaded to Liam Caddy, who enjoyed the simplest of finishes. Caddy missed the conversion.
At that stage it looked like Kilkenny would make easy work of the hosts.
Did the ease of the early score lead to arrogance, implosion or capitulation? Whatever the reason, Kilkenny were out of sync for the next 35 minutes of the half.
The Kildare men took over and simply dominated their visitors. They looked to run at every opportunity and had the Kilkenny defence scrambling and scrapping.
In the 10th minute Kildare got a just reward for their positive play when they wentr over for an unconverted try. In the 20th minute, following some strong forward play and accurate attacking lines, they scored their second try of the game, but again the conversion was missed.
Kildare weren’t finished and, five minutes later, they scored an excellently finished try. This time they added the extras, leaving the scoreline reading 17-5 in favour of the home side.
Kilkenny looked to get back in the game, through their centre pairing of Joe Manuel and Ti Lewington. Spurred on Kilkenny got into Kildare territory where, following some cynical play, referee Karl McIntyre awarded Kilkenny a penalty.
Needing to get points on the board Caddy opted for goal and reduced the deficit to nine points.
As far as Kilkenny were concerned the comeback was on, but the men in black were mistaken if they thought the hosts were finished. In the 35th minute they went over for their fourth try of the half; again their kicker added the extras leaving the score 24-8 to the home side.
With an under performing XV on the field the worry among the Kilkenny management was clear to see. The management took a quick moment to discuss tactics, Dermot Dunne reverted to video analyst Ian Costigan for particulars and statistics on where Kilkenny were falling short.
The intervention had success. Instructions were delivered from the sideline, as Kilkenny changed approach to a more conservative game plan.
On the stroke of half-time free scoring second row Andy Nyenhuis went over in the corner for his fourth try of the campaign. Some strong forward play coupled with aggressive carrying from Manuel and Lewington brought play inside the home 22m line. After four slow phases the scrum-half got quick ball on the fifth phase.
Noticing a mismatch out wide McGrath looked to attack. When Canadian Nyenhuis received the pass from Lyndon Brannigan, he only had one thing in mind. Taking the Kildare winger on the outside, the pacy second row crossed in the corner. Caddy failed with a tricky conversion, leaving the half time score 24-16.
Half-time was an opportunity for Kilkenny to regroup, the coaching team gave a no-holds-barred assessment of the performance and reiterated the instructions.
The small group of travelling support listened from the sidelines and some commented that the players were lucky that late Willie Duggan was not present to deliver his assessment to the Kilkenny performance.
Whatever was said seemed to work as Kilkenny opened the new half like a tornado wreaking havoc to all in its path.
The stern talking-to has the desired effect as, from the start of the half, Kilkenny seemed re-energized. Caddy sent a long kick off into Kildare territory.
A super kick chase by the impressive Alan McIntyre won possession for Kilkenny. McGrath recycled the ball and, three phases later, Joe Manuel stepped and jinked his way over the white wash. Caddy landed the extras, bringing the visitors to within a point of their hosts (24-23).
Three minutes later, Kilkenny crossed the line again. Following a similar pattern of play Manuel added another try, this time the EBS branch manager had more work to finish, but his formidable side-step was paying off. Caddy again added the additional two from the tee, suddenly Kilkenny found themselves leading by six points with only four minutes of the second half played.
The reinvigorated visitors pressed on, with Caddy kicking penalties in the 50th and 55th minutes to extend Kilkenny’s lead to 12 points. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic - four minutes later North Kildare crossed for an uncoverted try, leaving them within a score of their rivals (29-36).
In the 65th minute Padraic Mahon bagged the score of the game. Picking up possession well inside the Kilkenny half the winger, who is blessed with immense speed and excellent balance, exploded up the field.
Dancing past several hapless defenders, the Bennettsbridge man went over in the corner to record a phenomenal solo score. The conversion was missed but Kilkenny led by 12.
With seven minutes remaining Andy Nyenhuis crossed for his second of the game and fifth of the season. When the conversion was scored that brought the scoreline to 29-48.
The Kilcock men were not finished and their impressive out-half crossed for a consolation try in the 78th minute, leaving the final score 34-48.
Out of Tune
Playing on the banks of the Royal Canal Kilkenny’s jingle jangle was considerable out of tune - this was a game that Kilkenny could have easily left behind. The scoreline is quite flattering to the Cats.
Their first half performance was poor and it was a credit to the Kilkenny management for taking the necessary actions to fix the problem.
The second half performance was patchy, but Kilkenny took their opportunities when they arose: the end result is what matters most.
Credit to North Kildare, they never stopped battling and had Kilkenny very worried at half-time. On this performance it is hard to fathom how they are so far down the table. The game should help them turn the corner as they try to start getting some positive results.
Few players stood out for Kilkenny in those first 40 minutes but, on the overall game, Alan McIntyre a typically committed performance.
McIntyre, who recently graduated as a doctor, has an endless engine and wears the Kilkenny jersey with pride.
Elsewhere in the forwards Andy Nyenhuis was excellent as was No 8 Idris Rqibi. Wes Carter and Martin Leahy were responsible for an accurately and efficiently functioning set piece.
In the back line Joe Manuel and Padraic Mahon excelled. To pick one player is unfair, but the performance of Jason Connolly was exceptional.
The young State Street employee carried and tackled like a man whose life depended on victory. An integral member of the side, the team is fortunate to have such a committed player in their ranks.
Special mention must go to Kyle Edwards, who was promoted to the First squad. The 19-year-old forward gave some super performances for the Second XV over the last few games. His inclusion in the First squad is wholly merited.
Next up for Kilkenny is an away trip to north Dublin to play Suttonians.
With the Dublin 13 side currently one point ahead of Kilkenny in the table a win will see Kilkenny move to second. They could even find themselves in pole position should Longford cause an upset against Tullow next weekend.
Kilkenny First XV: 1 Conor Dempsey, 2 Martin Leahy, 3 Simon O’Shea, 4 Andy Nyenhuis (10pts, two tries), 5 Alan McIntyre, 6 Wes Carter, 7 Jason Connolly, 8 Idris Rqibi, 9 Dearan McGrath, 10 Liam Caddy (23pts, one try, four pens, three cons), 11 Lyndon Branigan, 12 Joe Manuel (10pts, two tries), 13 Ti Lewington, 14 Padraic Mahon, capt (5pts, one try), 15 Sean Moran. Replacements: 16 Hugh O’Brien, 17 Kyle Edwards, 18 Leon Madigan, 19 Jamie Quane, 20 Jake McDonald.