Kilkenny’s bid for promotion to Division 1 of the Leinster rugby league drove on strongly on Sunday when they travelled to Clane and came away victors (59-8) having scored a bonanza of nine tries. This spectacular win and bonus point victory puts Kilkenny back on top of the table by one point, writes Padraic Treacy.
The huge score has benefitted the winners points difference greatly following Malahide’s victory over Portlaoise (20-5).
There is, however, a lot of rugby still to play in the league and the Noresiders need to maintain this level of performance if they are to keep the chances of promotion alive.
The game was barely three minute old when Kilkenny opened the scoring. Centre Joey Manuel burst through the weak Clane defence and touched down just left of the posts. Kiwi out-half Willie Wright added the conversion. Six minutes later Clane were penalised on their five metre line. Kilkenny opted for the scrum.
The visitors retained possession and the ball was flashed out wide to the waiting arms of winger, Alan Pembroke, who touched down near the posts. Wright added the conversion.
On the rampage
With the visitors on the rampage, full-back Philly Walsh got his name on the scoresheet following a beautiful individual break which resulted in him touching down in the corner. The angle was too tight for Wright and his conversion attempt drifted across the face of the goal and wide. Kilkenny were hunting the bonus point.
They didn’t have to wait long as second row Diarmaid Hickey broke away from his chasers and touched down under the posts to score a converted try on 23 minutes. Clane restarted and Victor Ryan gathered the ball expertly. He set up the ruck and ever industrious flanker, John Phelan gathered and drove through the opposition.
Help was on hand as he off-loaded in the tackle to his partnering flanker, Johnny Harper, who burst up the pitch and scored under the posts making the conversion attempt an easy task for Wright. Clane’s spirit was broken.
They did manage to put three points on the ’board in the 30th minute and were unlucky to miss another penalty chance just before half-time when Kilkenny were penalised for crossing.
The whistle blew for half-time and the visitors were comfortably in front, 33-3. Coach Ashmore congratulated his team during the break for their hard work and for sticking to the game plan.
He pleaded with them not to take the foot off the accelerator.
Kilkenny obeyed his command and Manuel again touched down in the corner with 44 minutes gone. The angle again was too tight for Wright and his conversion went wide.
The winners were not to be stopped. They increased the intensity. Prop Simon O’Shea gathered the ball in the 53rd minute and he showed his speed and agility when he rounded two defenders to score just left of the posts for his fourth try of the season.
Wright added the conversion. Diarmaid Hickey replicated his first-half try in the 62nd minute when he broke free from the clutches of his opponents and scored under the posts.
Philly Walsh completed the try bonanza five minutes later when he scored under the posts. Wright added to his conversion tally.
Clane did manage a consolation try in the 71st minute, but for them it was too little, too late.
This was a fabulous performance from Kilkenny. They delivered exactly what they were asked to do.
The pre-Christmas addition of John Phelan to the pack paid dividends as he battered the Clane defence at every opportunity. The former Leinster junior has remarkable vision.
That talent, coupled with the expertise of his back row partners, Duggan and Harper, will present a daunting obstacle for all opponents this season.
Following his superb performance, Phelan walked away with the man of the match award. Kilkenny are away to Mullingar on Sunday in what should be a tougher contest.
They will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and add to their ever increasing points difference.
Having beaten Mullingar 38-15 in Foulkstown in October, the Foulkstowners will be hoping to maintain their impressive success rate and come away with the all-important bonus point. Malahide will also be seeking to increase their chances of promotion.
They have a tougher battle away to Roscrea. The Tipperary side are currently fourth in the table. Kilkenny will be very interested in the outcome as they take on Portlaoise in two weeks in Foulkstown, and again a week later in the first round of the Towns Cup.
Kick off in Mullingar on Sunday is at 2.30pm. Players and management are hoping for great support from Kilkenny rugby fans to assist them in their drive for promotion. Kilkenny
Seconds are also back in action against Mullingar on Sunday.
The Seconds will be hoping to revive their league efforts and prepare for their upcoming Towns Cup tie with Tullamore on February 2. Kick off in Mullingar is at 1pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Philly Walsh, Alan Pembroke, Conor Phelan, Joey Manuel, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Willie Wright, Willie Duggan (C), Johnny Harper, John Phelan, Diarmaid Hickey, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea. Subs - Darren Bawle, Emmet Lynch, Gerry Clarke, Victor Harper, Alan O’Donovan.