Kilkenny’s hopes of cup glory were dashed on Sunday when the Firsts were beaten by Newbridge in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup.
Despite turning in a fabulous performance, the game ended in a cruel twist for the Foulkstown outfit as a former Kilkenny player now playing for Newbridge got the winning touch-down to end the club’s dreams of silverware this season.
Leinster Branch referee, Niall Behan and his touch-line assistants Paul Cusack and Chris Reynolds blew the whistle at 3pm and Kilkenny, having won the toss, lofted a high ball deep into the Newbridge pack.
Kilkenny regained possession and inched their way towards the line. Newbridge held out for as long as they could but they were finally penalised on 12 minutes for repeated infringements in the lineout. Hooker, Brian Nolan set up the infamous ‘Lars Ball’ and channelled the ball to the back of the maul where Philly Ryan superbly controlled it and touched down following the forward drive.
This was the perfect start for Kilkenny. Newbridge suddenly realised what cup rugby was all about. It did not take them long to regroup, however, and having soaked up a lot of the pressure they began to test the visitors defence.
Although Kilkenny were in full control of the scrum at this point, the Newbridge backline looked dangerous when they got moving. On 20 minutes the winners flashed the ball out to the wing. The winger stepped back inside and was superbly tackled by two Kilkenny players.
The ball went forward and the Newbridge hooker was there to gather and dive over the line. The referee did not deem the ball to be knocked on and gave the try. The kicker added the conversion.
Seven minutes later Kilkenny were penalised for not releasing in the tackle. The Newbridge full-back made no mistake in adding the conversion points, stretching their lead to 10-5.
Despite trailing by five points going into the second half, Kilkenny fought back and gave everything they had. Philly Ryan was again on hand to touch down in the fourth minute following a fabulous forwards effort that saw them drive the opposition back over the line.
Denis Hogan added the conversion. Kilkenny were now two points in front. Newbridge replied seven minutes later when their full-back kicked a penalty, giving them a the lead.
Kilkenny hit back but Newbridge were not finished. In the 64th minute they attacked the Kilkenny line. Deep in the Kilkenny 22, Newbridge found they had an overlap out to their left.
The out-half lofted a cross-field kick to his winger who gathered and touched down near the post making the conversion attempt very easy.
Kilkenny could only answer with a penalty kick two minutes later and as the clock ticked towards the finish Kilkenny’s hopes of advancing to the semi-final faded.
This was a fabulous effort from all the players. Coach Pat McDonald thanked the players for the superb effort and said they should be proud of themselves. He reminded them of the upcoming South East Cup final, and to get ready for it. The date and venue will be announced later.
It is hard to pick a man of the match because all the players did well. Philly Ryan shone out again as he demonstrated his strength not only as a player but as a leader. Robbie Walsh and Denis Hogan also performed excellently.
Kilkenny Seconds are up next. They take on Enniscorthy in the second round of the Provincial Towns Seconds Cup in Foulkstown on Sunday. Kick off is at 3pm.
Kilkenny 1sts - Alan O’Donovan, Killian Everard, Philly Walsh, Alan Pembroke, Ben O’Connor, Denis Hogan, Robby Walsh, Philly Ryan (C), Alan McIntyre, Ray Pembroke, Brendan McIntyre, Gerry Clarke, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Nolan, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Eddie Brennan, Emmet Lynch, Ronan O’Donoghue, Joey Manuel, Gerry Callinan.