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J1: Leinster League, Sunday 14/10/12

Kilkenny                 54

Clane                 10                        
by Padraic Treacy

Although the score line may suggest otherwise, this wasn’t a very strong performance from Kilkenny on Sunday in Foulkstown against a much weaker Clane RFC. The visitors were indeed shocked at half time to be trailing only 14 – 3 and had every right to believe that they could win this Leinster League tie and make amends for the heavy defeat suffered at the hands of Roscrea the previous week.

Perhaps the cold and damp conditions contributed to the lack of energy and pace in the first half and indeed to the meagre turnout by Kilkenny supporters, however it took Kilkenny nearly 60 minutes to get control of the game and play the fast flowing, controlled rugby that has become part and parcel of their game plan since the beginning of the season.

Kilkenny took the lead in the 4th minute through the boot of Kiwi outhalf Willie Wright who kicked a superb penalty from almost the halfway line. Wright had the opportunity to increase the lead 2 minutes later however his attempt sailed just in front of the posts. It was deadlock for the next 20 minutes as Clane applied the pressure. Kilkenny were scrappy and uninventive and allowed their opponents too much time on the ball. Julian Hughes took over the kicking duties while Wright received attention for a blood injury and in the 25th minute he increased the lead to 6 points when Clane were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.

Clane quickly replied with a penalty minutes later. Kilkenny finally started to play and Hughes was again on hand to slot the ball between the sticks, continuing his fine kicking record so far this season. Clane, to their detriment, took the foot off the gas momentarily and on the stroke of halftime, Killian Everard touched down in the corner to score an unconverted try.

Kilkenny made a number of changes for the start of the second half. Applying greater pressure, the forwards finally started to control the set-pieces and nudge their way towards the Clane line. With three minutes gone on the clock, tight-head prop Simon O’Shea crossed the line to score the first of his three tries. Hughes added the conversion and with Kilkenny’s aggression levels rising, they still managed to make some unnecessary errors resulting in Clane going over the line in the 10th minute to score a converted try.

Kilkenny finally woke up and fifteen minutes into the half, they set up camp on the Clane try-line. They were awarded a 5-metre scrum and were duly awarded a penalty try when a Clane forward was judged to have dived on the ball while it was still in the scrum. Wright added the extra two points and Kilkenny looked like a new team.
From the restart they hit Clane with formidable force and moments later flanker Johnny Harper broke through their defence and dashed for the line. He offloaded the ball to Wright who expertly chipped the ball ahead for his fellow Kiwi Joey Manuel to gather and dive over the line with Hughes again adding the conversion. This try secured the valuable bonus point for the Kilkenny.

Four minutes later O’Shea intercepted a pass just inside the Clane half and despite his gigantic frame he sprinted for the line. He was not to be caught and touched down under the posts. This time Wright added the conversion. Seven minutes later O’Shea was again the man of the moment when he scored his third try which earned him the well-earned title “Hat-trick Hero”. With two minutes left to play Wright sealed the deal for Kilkenny with a finely worked try but failed in his attempt to convert leaving the final score 54 – 10.

Kilkenny will have a lot to look at and analyse this week. Despite a lack-lustre performance from the whole team, this huge score line demonstrates the weakness of the opposition and not necessarily the strength of the victors. Man of the match was undoubtedly Simon O’Shea. The youngster has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few weeks and his performance on Sunday was testament to the hard hours put in on the training pitch.

Kilkenny are at home again on Sunday when they face Mullingar who were narrowly beaten by Gorey on Saturday (25-27). They will be looking to get their league back on track as they currently sit in 5th place on the table. Kilkenny will be looking to solidify their position at the top of the table, two points behind current league leaders Roscrea who have a tough clash in Malahide on Sunday. All eyes will be on this game as the result will be of utmost interest to Kilkenny who are looking forward to an early November meet with Roscrea in Foulkstown.

Kilkenny Seconds are back in action against Mullingar on Sunday also. They kick off at 1.30pm while the Firsts kick off at 3.00pm.

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