Kilkenny Firsts welcomed North Dublin side Malahide to Foulkstown on Sunday in the South East junior rugby league. This was the first encounter between these sides, and what a contest it turned out to be.
Kilkenny, having won the toss, started the game with great enthusiasm and vigour and soon had their opponents on the back-foot. They made full use of the strong wind in their backs and set up camp in the Malahide half.
However, try as they may Kilkenny could not break down the visitors. The hosts lost formidable flanker John Harper through injury early in the game. He was replaced by Brendan McIntyre, who moved into the second row, allowing James Blanchfield to move into the injured flanker’s position.
Not releasing after tackle
Kilkenny battled on and finally on 25 minutes Malahide were penalised for not releasing the player after a tackle. Julian Hughes stepped up and neatly slotted the ball between the posts to give the home-side the well-earned lead.
Malahide had a surprise in store. Four minutes later they crashed over the home line and scored a converted try. This quick reply would have knocked the guts out of many a team, but thanks to the expert leadership skills of team captain, Philly Ryan, Kilkenny kept their composure and attacked with even more passion than before.
Kilkenny regained possession from the restart. Hughes expertly put his team-mates deep in their opponents 22 with a long-ranging kick. Blanchfield rose high in the lineout and robbed the ball from his opposite number.
Kilkenny set up the driving maul, and with hooker Brian Hanrahan in the driving seat, they drove over their opponents line with Hanrahan getting the touch down. Hughes again was on target with the conversion.
Hughes had the opportunity to extend Kilkenny’s lead on the stroke of half-time, but his attempt went right off the post leaving the score 10-7 going into the break.
Malahide restarted in defiant mood. Kilkenny were penalised outside their 22 and Malahide did not waste the opportunity to draw level. Both teams were evenly matched from here on in.
Kilkenny should have capitalised on a number of opportunities, but failure to do so cost them. They did cross the Malahide try-line 14 minutes into the half, but the referee decided the ball was held up despite the objections of the home crowd.
Five minutes from the end Malahide shocked the home crowd and delighted their travelling supporters when they raced over the Kilkenny line to score a converted try. Kilkenny did not give up the chase, but unfortunately time ran out and a delighted Malahide took the honours.
Kilkenny have slipped back to fourth position in the table. They have been overtaken by Portarlington and North Kildare. However, they are only four points behind league leaders Malahide, who are now on 14 points.
Kilkenny captain Philly Ryan performed superbly and excelled in his leadership. He was closely followed by front row pair Brian Hanrahan and Wayne Kavanagh, who sacrificed everything for their team-mates.
Kilkenny face Rathdrum in the South East League in Foulkstown on Sunday. Kick-off 3pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Killian Everard, Alan O’Donovan, Alan Pembroke, Joe Manuel, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Victor Harper, Philly Ryan (C), John Harper, Ray Pembroke, James Blanchfield, Gerry Clarke, Nigel Daly, Brian Hanrahan, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, Brendan McIntyre, Barry Daly, Eamonn Carroll.