Miserable weather conditions did not prevent Kilkenny Firsts from producing a fantastic performance in this Leinster League rugby clash in the historic town of Clane on Sunday.
Both the First and Second teams went home with well-earned points which left them sitting in second and first positions of their respective Division 2A league tables.
Clane opened the scoring on eight minutes when they burst through the Kilkenny defence and touched down under the posts. They easily added the conversion.
Kilkenny regrouped but 10 minutes later they found themselves on the receiving end of another Clane onslaught. This time full-back Killian Everard read the situation perfectly and intercepted a Clane pass inside his own 22metre.
He sprinted the length of the pitch to score under the posts. Julian Hughes stepped up and slotted the conversion neatly between the posts.
Drop goal attempt
This seemed to knock the stuffing out of Clane. However, on 18 minutes their out-half attempted a drop goal which drifted wide of the posts. Clane were penalised for crossing on 23 minutes and Hughes’ attempt dipped under the posts.
Five minutes later he was on target after Clane were penalised for collapsing the maul. Hughes had another shot on the stroke of half-time. This attempt went wide, but Kilkenny went into the break 10-5 in front.
The visitors started the second half in confidence mood. Four minutes in Rod Hogan scored in the corner following a superb backline move. Joe Manuel broke through the Clane defence, off-loaded to Alan Pembroke, who in turn passed to Killian Everard, who sucked in the remaining defenders and passed out to Hogan, who got the final touch down and claimed the try.
From the restart Kilkenny hammered the Clane line, but the hosts defended brilliantly. Clane had found a new gear and exerted intense pressure on Kilkenny. In the 16th minute the Clane winger spotted a gap in the Kilkenny defence and sprinted towards the line. A certain try scoring opportunity was on.
However, full-back Everard sprinted across the pitch and superbly bundled the attacker into touch short of the line to save Kilkenny. The visitors found a new gear after this. They regained possession in the ensuing lineout and drove at Clane once again.
Kilkenny flashed the ball wide and made valuable yardage into the Clane half. Centre, Joe Manuel chipped the ball over the heads of the Clane defensive line and chased after it. Unfortunately the ball bounced over the dead-ball line before he could touch it down.
Fourth try, bonus point
Three minutes later Everard tried the same tactic. This time he was successful, getting to the ball before the opposing defenders. There seemed to be a ‘mini-contest’ ensuing between Manuel and Everard.
Eight minutes later Manuel again repeated this tactic. This time he got to the ball before it reached the dead-ball line and scored Kilkenny’s fourth try which secured the bonus point.
Kilkenny held out for the remaining few minutes and ended the battle deserved winners. Most impressive for the winners were Alan O’Donovan, who defended his line superbly, John Harper, who repeatedly harassed the Clane half-back pair, and Ray Pembroke, who demonstrated awesome strength in his defence and attack and used his vast experience to spur on the newer members of the team.
With two wins out of two, Kilkenny are nicely place. Their next opponents are League leaders Malahide in Foulkstown on Sunday. A win at home is vital. Kick-off 3pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Killian Everard, Alan O’Donovan, Alan Pembroke, Joe Manuel, Clive Grehan, Julian Hughes, Victor Harper, Philly Ryan (capt), John Harper, Ray Pembroke, James Blanchfield, Emmet Carey, Nigel Daly, Brian Hanrahan, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Mick Hannigan, John Madden, Emmet Barry, Rod Hogan, Eamonn Carroll.