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  J1: Leinster League, Sunday, 02/12/12

Malahide                 23

Kilkenny                 16     
by Padraic Treacy

Kilkenny’s unbeaten run in the Leinster League came to an end on Sunday against second place Malahide. With driving rain and wind blowing in from the Irish Sea, both sets of fans were entertained beyond expectations in what was an epic battle for the top position. But Kilkenny’s sheer determination saw them secure the losing bonus point and stay top of the table by that single point.

Kilkenny burst out of the blocks and pinned their opponents to the collar for the opening 30 minutes. Malahide had an early chance to take the lead through a penalty but the attempt went wide of the posts. The first cruel blow came Kilkenny’s way in the 20th minute when Malahide crashed over the line and scored a try.  Kilkenny’s outhalf, Willie Wright missed a chance to narrow the deficit in the 29th minute which left the half-time score 7-0 to Malahide.

Kilkenny were fired up at the beginning of the second half, however it was the hosts who got to the scoreboard first. Kilkenny were penalised at the ruck and the Malahide scrum-half made no mistake with the kick. The visitors hit straight back and forced Malahide to error 2 minutes later. Wright got his name on the score board with a fine kick at the posts. Four minute later he added another and Kilkenny looked like they could snatch this game back from the jaws of defeat. Malahide increased their lead in the 15th and 19th minute with two penalty kicks and added a further 7 points three minutes later when Kilkenny allowed them through to score their second try.

At this point most visiting teams would have conceded defeat, but not the Foulkstown squad. Eddie Brennan lifted Kilkenny’s hopes further when he took on the Malahide defence on the 5 metre line and drove over the line to score a try under the posts. Wright easily added the conversion and closed the gap to ten points.

Kilkenny hit their opponents with everything they had but with time running out they had to change their tactics and pressed hard to gain the losing bonus point. With 80 minutes gone it seemed their luck had run out but they maintained the pressure and deep in injury time Malahide were penalised just inside their ten metre line handing Wright the opportunity to gain the valuable point. It was a superb kick and the travelling Kilkenny supporters roared with delight as the ball sailed between the posts. To the frustration of Malahide, Kilkenny were still top of the table.

All in all it was a good performance from Kilkenny who can only blame themselves for allowing their opponents too much space with the ball. At times Kilkenny displayed a hesitant approach to their attacking game and could have scored a few more points had they reacted quicker to opportunities they were presented with. Willie Duggan took the Man of the Match title for his sheer strength with ball in hand moving forward and his tackle count. Philly Walsh was solid at fullback but might be more suited to a centre position given his running strength.

Malahide are now very much back in with a chance at the promotion spot but Gorey are also back in the running following their win against Clane on Saturday (45-12) bringing them within 4 points of the leaders.

Kilkenny face Gorey on Sunday in Foulkstown and a win here is vital for them. In fact they cannot afford to lose any games now and every bonus point has to be attained and they can only hope that Malahide falter somewhere in their remaining matches. Kick-off on Sunday is at 2.00pm.

Kilkenny Firsts: - Philly Walsh, Alan O’Donovan, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Shane Raferty, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Willie Duggan, Johnny Harper, Philly Ryan, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Simon O’Shea, Tom Massey, Wayne Kavanagh.
Subs: - Eddie Brennan, Martin Leahy, Diarmaid Hickey, Kevin O’Toole, Rod Hogan.