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  J1: Leinster League, Sunday 6/1/13

Clane                08                         
Kilkenny          59
by Padraic Treacy

Kilkenny’s hunt for promotion to Division 1 got off to a blistering start on Sunday when they travelled to the medieval town of Clane and came away victors having scored a bonanza of nine tries. This spectacular win and bonus point victory puts Kilkenny back on top of the table by one point and the huge score line has benefitted their points difference greatly following Malahide’s narrow victory to Portlaoise (20-5). There is however a lot of rugby still to play in the league and the Noresiders need to maintain this level of performance if they are to keep their chances of promotion alive.

The game was barely 3 minute old when Kilkenny opened the scoring. Centre, Joey Manuel burst through the weak Clane defence and touched down just left of the posts with Kiwi outhalf Willie Wright adding the conversion. Six minutes later winger, Clane were penalised on their 5 metre line and Kilkenny opted for the scrum. The visitors retained possession and the ball was flashed out wide to the waiting arms of winger Alan Pembroke who touched down near the posts with Wright adding the conversion.

With the visitors now on the rampage, fullback Philly Walsh got his name on the score sheet following a beautiful individual break which resulted in him touching down in the corner. The angle was too tight for Wright and his conversion attempt drifted across the face of the goal. Kilkenny were now hunting the bonus point and they didn’t have to wait very long as second row Diarmaid Hickey broke away from his chasers and touched down under the posts to score a converted try on 23 minutes.

Clane restarted and Victor Ryan gathered the ball expertly. He set up the ruck and the ever present flanker John Phelan gathered and drove through the opposition. Help was on hand as he offloaded in the tackle to his partnering flanker Johnny Harper who burst up the pitch and scored under the posts making the conversion attempt an easy task for Wright.

Clane’s spirit was broken however they did manage to put 3 points on the board in the 30th minute and were unlucky to miss another penalty chance just before half-time when Kilkenny were penalised for crossing. The whistle blew for half-time and the visitors were comfortably in front 33 – 3.

Coach Ashmore congratulated his team during the break for their hard work and for sticking to the game plan.  He pleaded with them not to take the foot off the accelerator. Kilkenny obeyed his command and Manuel again touched down in the corner with 44 minutes gone on the clock. The angle again was too tight for Wright and his conversion kick went wide.

Kilkenny were not to be stopped and they increased the intensity to the detriment of their opponents. Prop, Simon O’Shea gathered the ball in the 53rd minute and he showed his speed and agility when he rounded two defenders to score just left of the posts and his fourth try of the season so far. Wright was again on hand to add the conversion.

Diarmaid Hickey replicated his first-half try in the 62nd minute when he broke free from the clutches of his opponents and scored under the posts. Philly Walsh completed the try bonanza 5 minutes later when he scored under the posts with Wright adding to his conversion tally. Clane did manage a consolation try in the 71st minute but it was unfortunately too little, too late.

This was a fabulous performance from Kilkenny as they delivered exactly what they were asked to do. The pre-Christmas addition of John Phelan to the forward pack paid dividends for Kilkenny as he battered the Clane defence at every opportunity. The former Leinster junior has remarkable vision for the game and that coupled with the expertise of his back row partners, Duggan and Harper, is a daunting obstacle for Kilkenny’s remaining opponents this season. Owing to his superb performance, Phelan deservedly picked up the man of the match award.

Kilkenny are away to Mullingar on Sunday in what should prove to be a slightly tougher contest. They will be hoping to replicate the Clane performance and add to their ever increasing point’s difference. Having beaten Mullingar 38-15 in Foulkstown in October, the Foulkstowners will be hoping to maintain their very impressive success rate and come away with the all-important bonus point.

Malahide will also be seeking to increase their chances of promotion; however they have a tougher battle when they travel to Roscrea who are never an easy team to beat at home. Roscrea currently occupy the 4th spot and will be hoping to take the 3rd place position from Gorey who are away to Portlaoise. Kilkenny will be very interested in the outcome of this match as they take on Portlaoise in two weeks in Foulkstown and again a week later in the first round of the Towns Cup.

Kick off in Mullingar on Sunday is at 2.30pm and players and management are hoping for great support from Kilkenny rugby fans to assist them in their drive for promotion.

Kilkenny Seconds are also back in action against Mullingar on Sunday. The Seconds will be hoping to revive their league efforts and prepare for their upcoming Towns Cup tie with Tullamore on 2nd February. Kick off in Mullingar is at 1.00pm.

Kilkenny Firsts: - Philly Walsh, Alan Pembroke, Conor Phelan, Joey Manuel, Rod Hogan, Julian Hughes, Willie Wright, Willie Duggan (C), Johnny Harper, John Phelan, Diarmaid Hickey, Victor Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Simon O’Shea.
Subs: - Darren Bawle, Emmet Lynch, Gerry Clarke, Victor Harper, Alan O’Donovan.