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  J1: Leinster League, Sunday 11/3/12

Kilkenny 17
Portarlington 20

by Padraic Treacy

Kilkenny ended the 2011/2012 Leinster League campaign on a high note on Sunday when they welcomed the eventual Leinster League champions, Portarlington to Foulkstown. Although Kilkenny were narrowly beaten, each and every player put in a fabulous effort which will stand them good on Sunday when they meet Newbridge in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup. Despite the loss, Kilkenny ended in fourth place on the table, a very respectable result for all the hard work put in throughout the year. Despite Roscrea’s unsuccessful efforts to secure a win in Malahide (23-13), a win for Roscrea would have helped Kilkenny to hold on to third place, but it was not to be.

Kilkenny quickly took charge of the game from the kick off. Denis Hogan lofted a high ball deep into the Portarlington pack and Gerry Clarke was under it to regain possession for the locals. The Kilkenny pack drove their counterparts deep into the 22 and they were very unlucky not to go over in the corner.

Portarlington remained calm and somehow managed to turnover possession with their outhalf driving the ball deep into the Kilkenny half and relieving the pressure. Kilkenny’s outside centre, Philly Walsh, gathered the ball but he was tackled and subsequently penalised for not releasing it. Portarlington’s full back, David Murphy, opened the scoring with a fine penalty kick from about 30 metres out. Kilkenny regrouped, however on 16 minutes they were again penalised and Murphy slotted another between the posts.

Portarlington gathered the ball from the Kilkenny restart and flashed the ball out along the back line. Their number 13, who had done so much damage in the opening game in Portarlington in November, was hell bent on causing havoc yet again and darted between the Kilkenny defence and touched down, rather cheekily, under the posts! The conversion was added and Kilkenny were 13 points behind.

Captain Philly Ryan spurred on his team and on 31 minutes, he himself touched down for Kilkenny following a superb penalty move in the visitors 22. Kilkenny were awarded the penalty and hooker, Brian Nolan, set up the infamous “Lar’s Ball”, driving at the opposition pack. The ball was quickly channelled back and Ryan was there to drive over the line. Hogan added the conversion and Kilkenny were back in the game.

Portarlington kicked off the second half and Kilkenny took control. Three minutes into the game, Philly Ryan was again on hand to touch down in the corner following some fine running from both the backs and forwards. Hogan narrowly missed the conversion. Kilkenny were now on fire and ten minutes later Brian Nolan got his name on the scoreboard following a strong forward push driving their opponents over the line in the opposite corner. The angle of the kick was too much for Hogan, although he only just missed the target.

Kilkenny battled fiercely and held onto their score advantage until the 23 rd minute when the Portarlington winger stepped inside a tackle and spurted for the line to touch down under the posts. Murphy added the conversion and they took a 3 point lead.

The remaining 15 minutes saw Kilkenny throw everything into the game. Portarlington although under extreme pressure defended superbly and they were ecstatic when the final whistle blew.

Portarlington were presented with the League Cup directly after the game and Captain, Ross Doyle, gratefully accepted the trophy on behalf of his team mates. Philly Ryan congratulated them on their title and promotion to Division 1B and wished them well for the future.

Despite the loss, this was a fabulous performance from the Kilkenny squad. Philly Ryan was without doubt the Man of the Match closely followed by Ben O’Connor on the wing and Robbie Walsh at scrum-half. With the quarter final of the Towns Cup coming up on Sunday in Newbridge, Kilkenny should find great heart in this performance and give Newbridge a good run for their money. The players and coaches would like to see a good turn out from Kilkenny supporters on Sunday with the kick off scheduled for 3pm.

Kilkenny: Denis Hogan, Killian Everard, Philly Walsh, Alan Pembroke, Ben O’Connor, Barry Walsh, Robby Walsh, Philly Ryan (C), Alan McIntyre, Ray Pembroke, Brendan McIntyre, Gerry Clarke, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Nolan, Mick Hannigan.

Subs: Eddie Brennan, Emmet Lynch, Ronan O’Donoghue, Gerry Callinan, Rod Hogan.