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J2: Leinster League, Sunday 11/3/12

Kilkenny 34
Portarlington 31

by Padraic Treacy

Kilkenny Seconds were only a point behind league leaders, Malahide, going into the game and needed the win to take the title for the second year in a row. A win for Roscrea, who were playing Malahide, would have secured the title for Kilkenny. Alas it was not to be as news filtered through that Roscrea were beaten solidly by Malahide (54 – 10).

Kilkenny concentrated on the task at hand and with only two minutes played, outhalf Gerry Callanan opened the scoring for the locals with a fine long range kick. Minutes later Callanan was again on hand to stretch the lead when he touched down under the posts and added the conversion. From the restart Kilkenny gathered the ball and ran at the Portarlington defence. Ronan O’ Donohue with the ball in hand made great ground and expertly jinked inside a tackle and ran towards the posts. He was brought down just short but Conor Bass was there to accept the offload and claim the score with Callanan again adding the conversion.

Portarlington quickly replied with a breakaway try of their own but Kilkenny never looked too much in danger at this point. Kilkenny’s ‘speed-merchant’, Rod Hogan scored a fabulous try in the corner minutes later, somehow twisting his body and avoiding entering touch. The half ended with the locals comfortably in front, 22 – 12.

Kilkenny started the second half as the first had ended, fully in the driving seat. Six minutes into the half, the formidable Callanan, scored under the posts again and added the conversion. From this moment on the game turned in favour of Portarlington. As if they had suddenly woken from a winter sleep, they piled on the pressure. Their efforts paid off when they crossed the line on three occasions adding the conversion points each time.

Suddenly Kilkenny found themselves two points behind and with the clock ticking it looked as if Portarlington might snatch the win. Kilkenny however kept their composure and battled their way back up the pitch. Finally in the 39th minute, fullback Eamon Carroll, broke through the visitors defence and scored in the corner. Quentin Hearne attempted the conversion from the touch-line but it sailed wide and Kilkenny had to be content with a 3 point win. Shortly afterwards the final whistle blew to the relief of the players.

Gerry Callanan had a fabulous game at outhalf and proved he is a contender for the First team spot. Ronan O’Donoghue also had a solid performance at flanker, closely followed by his No.8 partner, Conor Bass. It was a good team performance and comforting to know that Kilkenny did not panic and kept their composure throughout despite being on the back-foot for so long. This will stand them good as they prepare for their second round Towns Cup encounter against Enniscorthy on Sunday, March 23 rd.

Kilkenny: Eamon Carroll, Rod Hogan, Ben O’Connor, Vinnie O’Shea (C), Paul O’Flynn, Gerry Callanan, Victor Walsh, Conor Bass, Ronan O’ Donoghue, Leon Madigan, James Blanchfield, John Madden, Eddie Brennan, Emmet Lynch, Darren Bawle.

Subs: Emmet Carey, Dave Matthews, Mick Dunne, Richie Connolly, Ger Costelloe.