IT WAS a good weekend all round for rugby, with New Zealand regaining the World Cup after a 24 years wait and both Kilkenny Firsts and Seconds performing excellently to take full points against North Kildare to cement their positions on the top half of their respective South East league tables.
Kilkenny’s famous rugby hostelry, the Tholsel Bar on High Street, was packed to the ceiling on Sunday morning with fans from all corners kitted out, in the most part, in All Black paraphernalia, with a sprinkling of brave French supporters also huddled around the many TV sets that patron Benjy Lawlor had provided for the World Cup.
Anyone who watched the game on Sunday can surely understand that the atmosphere in ‘Benjy’s’ during the final was extremely tense. After the game there was very friendly banter between the opposing supporters, as is usual with great rugby encounters!
Teas and coffees were the order of the day until the Irish licencing laws kicked in. Black was not just the colour of the eventual winners jersey, but also the colour of the liquid that was ordered in fair amounts.
Kilkenny club congratulations went to all Kiwi club members and supporters who have given, and continue to give, great service to the club.
Kilkenny added to the weekends celebrations after they beat North Kildare in Foulkstown on Saturday. The game was moved from Sunday to Saturday to accommodate the viewing of the World Cup final.
This proved to be a wise move, giving the atrocious weather conditions on Sunday. However, Saturday’s weather was not much better and it made playing conditions extremely difficult.
Kilkenny Firsts needed this win to stay in the top half of the table. They are currently in joint third place with next week’s opponents Roscrea with 14 points each.
Portarlington pulled off a shock defeat over league leaders Malahide, winning 9-5 in Malahide and have thus put themselves into top position on 16 points. It may be too early to say, but it looks like these four teams will battle it out for the top position for the remainder of the season.
North Kildare started very well. Kilkenny quickly realised they would have a fight on their hands. With very wet conditions, both teams found it difficult to keep hold of the ball.
North Kildare took control of the scrum and put Kilkenny under extreme pressure in this area. Kildare took no less than three scrums from Kilkenny in the opening quarter but the localsa fought back and regained control.
The Noresiders were stronger in the lineout and they stole possession from the opposition on two occasions in the first half.
The Kildare out-half did extremely well, despite a driving cross-wind, to slot the ball between the posts on eight minutes to take the lead after Kilkenny were caught entering the ruck from the side. The home team remained calm and five minutes later, Julian Hughes answered with a superb kick at goal to level the scores.
Kilkenny regained control but were again caught offside. Kildare did not miss the opportunity to take the lead once again.
The locals drove hard and fast at the Kildare defence and were not afraid to spread the ball wide. Their efforts paid off in the 34th minute when the backline instigated a move straight off the training pitch which saw try hungry winger, Killian Everard sail over the line in the corner.
Hughes failed to add the conversion. Kilkenny went into the break 8-6 ahead.
Kilkenny improve with weather
Surprisingly, the rain and wind eased in the second half which seemed to suit the home side. Kilkenny ran the ball at every opportunity and forced their opponents into errors. However, they did not capitalise on their opponents mistakes until the 65th minute when Hughes stretched the lead when a penalty, the ball glancing off the left hand post and bounced between the posts.
Five minutes later Hughes had a chance to stretch the Kilkenny lead, but his attempt went wide of the posts. Kildare knew the game was up as Kilkenny increased the pressure.
Try and try as they did to upset the home attack, Kilkenny kept their discipline and walked away from any threatening situation, thanks to the superb leadership skills of captain, Philly Ryan. On 78 minutes Kilkenny got their just reward.
Following a lineout on the Kildare five metre line, Kilkenny set up a driving maul. Hooker Brian Hanrahan expertly controlled the ball at the back of the maul and drove for the line. He got the touch down to score his third try of the season.
A composed and confident Hughes stepped up and added the conversion. Kildare nerves were frayed at this point and in the 80th minute the referee sent one of their second rows to the bin for illegal use of the boot. Hughes sealed the deal for Kilkenny with a fabulous kick at goal.
Best for Kilkenny were Gerry Clarke and Alan McIntyre, who both worked tirelessly for the entire 80 minutes, and Victor Harper, whose tackling and courage were exemplary.
Kilkenny play Roscrea next week in Streamstown, Roscrea. A win for Kilkenny is vital. Rivalry between the clubs has been very keen over the years. Kick-off in Roscrea is at 3pm.
Kilkenny Firsts - Alan O’Donovan, Killian Everard, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Victor Harper, Philly Ryan (capt), Alan McIntyre, Ray Pembroke, Brendan McIntyre, Gerry Clarke, Nigel Daly, Brian Hanrahan, Wayne Kavanagh. Subs - Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, James Blanchfield, Denis Hogan, Eamonn Carroll.
Under strength Kildare no match for keen Cats
Kilkenny Seconds 44pts
North Kildare 0pts
No matter how one tries, it is almost impossible to paint a pretty picture of this dismal game of rugby played in dismal weather conditions in Foulkstown. Kilkenny Seconds won at their ease.
North Kildare arrived in Foulkstown with only 12 players. Rather than forfeit the game and points they were determined to play. Kilkenny were allowed field a full 15 players so from the outset this was a one-sided affair.
In fairness to Kildare, they did not give up and they gave their all throughout.
It took only a matter of minutes for Kilkenny to cross the Kildare line. Speedy out-half, Paul O’Flynn, scored the first of his three tries early on. Lee Wilson, who just returned from a lengthy injury, and Conor Bass crossed the line before half-time break when the score was 25-0 to the home side.
The driving wind and rain seemed to intensify during the second half. This did not stop experienced prop, Mick Hannigan from crashing over the line three minutes into the half. Barry Daly added the conversion.
Kildare held out duirng the next 20 minutes before Kilkenny’s towering second row, Mick Dunne drove over the line. This time Daly narrowly missed the conversion.
Minutes later Wilson crossed the line again for Kilkenny to score his second try. Scrum-half Quentin Hearne added the conversion.
Kilkenny were in control throughout and never gave their opponents the opportunity to score. Best for the home side were Paul O’Flynn, Leon Madigan and Simon Manuel.
Kilkenny take on Roscrea on Sunday in Streamstown. Kick-off 1.30pm
Kilkenny Seconds - Eamonn Carroll, Paul O’Flynn, Shane Raferty, Vinnie O’Shea (C), Ger Flood, Barry Daly, Quentin Hearne, Conor Bass, Lee Wilson, Leon Madigan, Emmet Carey, James Blanchfield, Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, Simon Manuel. Subs - Brian Nolan, Joe Ryan, Dave Matthews, David Nolan, Cayman Browne.