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  J1/J2: Leinster League, Sunday, 4/11/12

Portlaoise                14

Kilkenny                   35     

by Padraic Treacy

A somewhat complacent Kilkenny squad took to the pitch on Sunday and very nearly paid the price for their lack of fighting spirit towards a more motivated Portlaoise side. Despite the dismal conditions and trailing 14 – 3 at half-time, Kilkenny pulled this game out of the bag in the second half and romped home to a well-earned bonus point victory.

Kilkenny missed out on scoring two tries in the first half of this Leinster League clash when prop Simon O’Shea and outhalf Willie Wright both  knocked the ball forward before crossing the line. Wright made amends for his missed try with a fine penalty kick a short time later. Portlaoise, to Kilkenny’s fortune, missed two easy chances at goal, however, had they converted those scores the outcome of this game could have been entirely different.

Portlaoise did score two converted tries just before half-time and it looked like Kilkenny’s unbeaten run was going to be dealt a heavy blow. Head Coach Steve Ashmore did not leave much to the imagination in his half-time ‘pep-talk’ and a reinvigorated Kilkenny squad blasted onto the pitch in the second half.

Kilkenny’s first try came from winger Killian Everard who’s lightning speed saw him score under the posts with Wright adding the conversion. Kilkenny now had control of the set pieces and following a surge from the forwards, prop Wayne Kavanagh charged over the line to score. Wright was again on hand to add the conversion.

Kilkenny applied huge pressure on the Portlaoise defence and Wright finally made up for his missed try in the first half and touched down in the corner. He missed the opportunity to convert, however he did add a further two penalties to his tally before the mighty Joey Manuel  superbly split the Portlaoise defence in two and scored under the posts to secure the valuable bonus point for the visitors. Wright again added the conversion to bring his personal tally for the game to twenty points and his success rate to 17 out of 30 kicks from four games since joining the club in early October. In torrential rain the final whistle blew and Kilkenny players and fans breathed a sigh of relief at this very near missed opportunity.

Kilkenny now find themselves five points clear of the chasing group of Malahide, Gorey and Roscrea. Malahide surprisingly, just managed to beat bottom of the table New Ross 15 – 0. Roscrea, seem to be experiencing a lull in their performance of late and were beaten for a second week in a row by a stronger Gorey side with a score line of 15 – 22. Roscrea have now slipped to fourth place, seven points behind Kilkenny. The race for promotion to Division One now looks as if it will be contested between these four teams however Kilkenny will have a lot of work to do to maintain their unbeaten record.

Kilkenny Seconds are hoping for a win against Roscrea on Sunday to get their Leinster League campaign back on track following defeat to Portlaoise (22-8). Kick-off in Foulkstown against Roscrea is at 1.00pm and 2.30pm respectively.

Kilkenny Firsts: - Julian Hughes, Clive Grehan, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Killian Everard, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Philly Ryan, John Harper, Ray Pembroke, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea.
Subs: - Wayne Kavanagh, Tom Massey, Ger Costello, Stephen Brennan, Kevin O’Toole.