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  J1: South East League Sunday, 26/8/12

Carlow                   08

Kilkenny Firsts    10 

by Padraic Treacy

The 2012/2013 rugby season got off to a great start for Kilkenny on Sunday having travelled the short distance up the M9 to meet arch-rivals, County Carlow in the first leg of the South-East League.

With Pat McDonald no longer at the helm, the travelling Kilkenny fans eagerly awaited the unveiling of his replacement, Steve Ashmore’s new-look Kilkenny team! Ashmore and his assistant David “DOC” O’Connor did not disappoint the fans as Kilkenny took the honours on the day.

It was a very evenly matched contest from the beginning with neither side giving the other an inch. Both teams pressed hard and tested each other out with great runs and inventive moves. Centre, Joe Manuel took on the Carlow defence time and time again and the support from his team mates was formidable.
The game was 27 minutes old when the first points went on the board. Kilkenny were penalised in their 22, directly in front of the posts. The Carlow outhalf made no mistake with the kick and Carlow took the lead to the delight of their supporters.
Two minutes later Kilkenny were awarded a penalty about 30 metres out. Julian Hughes stepped up to take the kick but his effort just sailed across the posts and went wide. On 32 minutes Kilkenny were again awarded a penalty, this time Hughes did not miss and the sides were level.

Kilkenny upped their game and Joe Manuel and Alan Pembroke repeatedly battered the Carlow backline. With ten minutes left to play, Carlow had a player sent to the Sin-Bin. Kilkenny capitalised on this and Manuel finally broke through and sprinted for the line. As he reached the Carlow try line he rather unselfishly turned and passed the ball to Darren McGrath who got the touch down and his name on the scoreboard! Hughes converted and Kilkenny were in the driving seat. The half time whistle blew with Kilkenny 10-3 in front.

The second half was much the same as the first with both teams testing each other and looking for that elusive break. Kilkenny lost Manuel through injury and Victor Harper came on to take over the scrum-half duties with McGrath moving to the vacant centre position. Willie Duggan was brought on for Ger Costello thus strengthening the Kilkenny pack. However Carlow piled on the pressure and in the 37th minute they finally crossed the Kilkenny line, however the conversion attempt was unsuccessful. The game ended 10–8 in Kilkenny’s favour.

Kilkenny put in a fine display overall. The forwards played fabulously and produced quick and clean ball for their backs. With the return of Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan, this provides great strength up front and a platform for the backs to shine. With players such as Killian Everard, Robby and Philly Walsh still set to make their return the future indeed looks bright!

Although this was a superb team effort,t best on the day for Kilkenny were Joe Manuel, Victor Ryan, Mick Hannigan and Lee Wilson.

Kilkenny take on Wexford in Foulkstown on Saturday in the next leg of the South East League. Wexford were heavily beaten on Saturday evening by Enniscorthy (47-9) so a win for Kilkenny is vital to stay in the running. Kick off in Foulkstown is 6.00pm.

Kilkenny:  Alan O’Donovan, Shane Raferty, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Kieran Ormonde, Julian Hughes, Darren McGrath, Philly Ryan (C), Lee Wilson, Ger Costelloe, Victor Ryan, Gerry Clarke, Mick Hannigan, Stephen Murphy, Simon O’Shea.
Subs: David Buckley, Darren Bawle, Willie Duggan, Victor Harper, Stephen Brennan.