||J1: Leinster League, Saturday 22/10/11
North Kildare 6
by Padraic Treacy
What a fantastic weekend for rugby it was! New Zealand regained the World Championship crown for the first time in 24 years (in case you didn’t know!), and both Kilkenny Firsts and Seconds performed excellently, taking full points against their opponents North Kildare, cementing their positions on the top half of their respective tables.
Kilkenny’s famous rugby hostelry, the Tholsel Bar (“Benjy’s”) on High Street, was packed to the ceiling on Sunday morning, with rugby fans from all corners of the earth 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 this spectacular event. Anyone who watched the game on Sunday can surely understand that the atmosphere in “Benjy’s” during the game was extremely tense however, after the game, there was a very friendly banter between the opposing supporters, as is usual with great rugby encounters!
Teas and coffees were the order of the day (at least during the first half!) until the Irish licencing laws kicked in and black was not just the colour of the eventual winners jersey, but also the colour of the liquid that was ordered in great amounts thereafter. Our congratulations go out to all our Kiwi club members and supporters worldwide, who have given and continue to give great service to our club. Congratulations also to a nation that following the massive earthquakes that rattled their country earlier this year, truly deserve to take the title of “Kings of world rugby”.
Kilkenny added to the weekends celebrations when they welcomed opponents North Kildare to Foulkstown on Saturday. The game was moved mid-week, from Sunday to Saturday, to accommodate 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 made playing conditions extremely difficult indeed.
Kilkenny needed this win to stay on the top half of the table and are currently in joint 3 rd place with next week’s opponents Roscrea with 14 points each. Portarlington pulled off a shock defeat over league leaders Malahide by beating them 9 – 5 in Malahide and have thus put themselves into 1 st position on 16 points. It may be too early to say, but it looks like these 4 teams will battle it out for the top position for the remainder of the season.
North Kildare started very strong and Kilkenny quickly realised they would have a fight on their hands. With very wet conditions, both teams found it very 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 3 scrums from Kilkenny in the opening quarter but Kilkenny fought back and regained control. Kilkenny were stronger however in the lineout and stole possession from Kildare on two occasions in the first half.
The Kildare outhalf did extremely well, despite a driving cross-wind, to slot the ball between the posts on 8 minutes and take the lead when Kilkenny were caught entering the ruck from the side. Kilkenny remained calm and 5 minutes later, Julian Hughes answered with a superb kick at goal to level the scores. Kilkenny regained control of the game but were again caught offside and Kildare did not miss the opportunity to take the lead once again.
Kilkenny 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 Kilkenny backline instigated a move straight off the training pitch which saw try hungry winger, Killian Everard sail over the line to score in the corner. Hughes failed to add the conversion on this occasion and Kilkenny went into the break 8 – 6 ahead.
Surprisingly, the rain and wind eased in the second half which seemed to suit the home side more. Kilkenny ran the ball at every opportunity and forced their opponents to make errors. However they did not capitalise on their opponents mistakes until the 65 th minute when Hughes stretched their lead when his penalty kick attempt, luckily glanced off the left hand post and bounced between the posts. Five minutes later Hughes again had the chance to stretch the Kilkenny lead, but his attempt went wide of the posts.
Kildare knew the game was up for them as Kilkenny increased the pressure. Try and try as they did to upset the Kilkenny attack by using some very unorthodox methods, Kilkenny kept their discipline, and walked away from their provocations, thanks to the superb leadership skills of captain, Philly Ryan. On 78 minutes Kilkenny got their just reward. Following a lineout on the Kildare 5 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 and 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 in the game and on the 40 th 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. Kilkenny ended the game deserved winners 21 – 6.
Best for Kilkenny were Gerry Clarke and Alan McIntyre who both worked tirelessly for the entire 80 minutes and Victor Harper who’s tackling and courage was exemplary.
Kilkenny take on Roscrea next week in Streamstown, Roscrea. A win for Kilkenny is vital and as all Kilkenny rugby supporters well know, Roscrea will not hand it to them on a plate. Rivalry between both these clubs has been very keen over the past few years!
Kick off in Roscrea is at 3.00pm.
Kilkenny: Alan O’Donovan, Killian Everard, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Victor Harper, Philly Ryan (C), 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.