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J1: Leinster League. Sunday 3/3/13

Roscrea                   12                                               
Kilkenny                  34       

by Padraic Treacy

Kilkenny are now just one match away from being crowned Leinster League Division 2A champions following a resounding win away to Roscrea in Streamstown on Sunday. However, Kilkenny must first dispense with bottom of the table New Ross this Sunday in Foulkstown before they can celebrate promotion to Division 1B and lift the coveted trophy. Their nearest contenders Malahide pulled off a huge 101 point home victory against their opponents Clane on Sunday leaving a suspense filled climax to the final games of the League this weekend. Malahide are away to Gorey on Saturday and Kilkenny are hoping their Wexford neighbours will pull off a final surprise leaving the path clear for Kilkenny to enjoy their clash against New Ross and celebrate a fabulously contested season.

Kilkenny burst out of the blocks in Streamstown and with just eight minutes gone on the clock they found themselves 3 points in front through the boot of star Kiwi outhalf, Willie Wright. This followed a penalty in the Roscrea 22 when the hosts were adjudged by the referee to have encroached the offside position. Indeed it was Kilkenny’s southern hemisphere connection that dominated the game for the opening ten minutes as Wrights fellow Kiwi, Joey Manuel, scored the game’s opening try four minutes later following a blistering run which saw him jink and jive his way through the Roscrea defence leaving them spinning in their boots to touch down just right of the posts. Wright duly added the conversion points.

Roscrea restarted and lofted a high ball into the Kilkenny pack. A breakdown in communications saw Roscrea regain possession and they broke through the Kilkenny defence to score a converted try in the14th minute. A rejuvenated Roscrea finally found their pace and in the 25th minute they were again allowed slip through the normally tight Kilkenny defence and score in the corner but failed to add the conversion. Kilkenny lost their awesome No.8, Willie Duggan, through injury. Duggan received a gash to the face and had to be brought to hospital.

Kilkenny brushed themselves off and regained control of the game. John Phelan came on for the injured Duggan and quickly put his stamp on the game. Wright kicked deep and Kilkenny were awarded a scrum in the opposition 22. The front row of Kavanagh, Leahy and O’Shea pulverised their opponents and drove over the Roscrea line where Phelan gathered and touched down to give Kilkenny the lead again with Wright adding the conversion.

Roscrea were rattled and they kicked into the waiting arms of Phelan who took off like a runaway train using his great strength to brush aside the attentions of the Roscrea defence. He was finally put to ground just inside the Roscrea 22 but offloaded superbly to his teammate Wright who sprinted the remaining 20 metres to score under the posts leaving himself the rather easy task of adding the extra two points.

On the stroke of half time, Kilkenny increased their lead and secured the valuable bonus point through a forward surge which saw hooker, Martin Leahy score in the corner. The angle was too tight for Wright and Kilkenny went into the break deservedly 29-12 in front.

The second half was played with more ferocity and passion than the first. Tempers flared on occasion but Kilkenny did exactly as was asked of them by head coach, Steve Ashmore and put the game out of the reach of Roscrea.

Kilkenny launched an offensive attack at their opponent’s line. This saw the forward pack drive at their opponents punching holes in their defence and with just four minutes having elapsed since the restart, giant winger Alan Pembroke charged over in the corner to seal the deal for the visitors. Wright’s conversion attempt went low and across the face of the posts.

Roscrea were not beaten and launched their own offensive but Kilkenny held strong and demonstrated some of the best defensive strength of the season. Roscrea tempers flared again which saw two of their players receive yellow and red cards for off the ball incidents. Kilkenny held tough and the end drew near to the delight and relief of the fans.

This was a fabulous victory and display of teamwork and sheer strength from Kilkenny. Every single player gave his all and with that in mind it is impossible to pick out one player who excelled above the other. It is with great anticipation and apprehension that we await the final leg on Sunday of what has been a long and successful season for Kilkenny.

All eyes will be on Gorey v Malahide on Saturday and with Malahide just one point behind the leaders, Kilkenny cannot afford to take their eye off the ball against New Ross on Sunday. Kick-off is at 3.00pm and it is certainly hoped that a huge crowd will attend the game and cheer on our local heroes to probable Leinster glory.

Kilkenny Firsts: - Julian Hughes, Mark Coughlan, Philly Walsh, Joey Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Willie Duggan, Philly Ryan, Diarmaid Hickey, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Simon O’Shea, Martin Leahy, Wayne Kavanagh.
Subs: - Eddie Brennan, Tom Massey, John Phelan, Robby Walsh, Ben O’Connor.