J1: South East League, Friday 31/8/12
by Padraic Treacy
This South East League clash in Foulkstown began to lose its momentum early last week as the game set to be played on Saturday was moved to Friday night, thus accounting for the lack of Kilkenny support on the touchline. Spirits were further dampened when on arrival in Foulkstown on Friday, Wexford announced they could not field a full team and conceded the points to Kilkenny. In addition to all this, Kilkenny Seconds were denied the chance to make amends for their narrow defeat at the hands of Carlow last week when Wexford again mid-week announced they could not field a full team.
With nothing to lose but lots to gain, head coach Steve Ashmore was handed the opportunity to try out a number of prospective First team players and experiment with his squad. Wexford were strengthened by the addition of two Kilkenny players, Eddie Brennan and Gavin McCarthy who gladly volunteered their services to the Wexford outfit. Surprisingly the visitors managed to keep Kilkenny at bay for the opening quarter and it was indeed a Kilkenny man who opened the scoring after 16 minutes, when Eddie Brennan charged over the line to score a well-earned try for his new found team mates! Wexford added the conversion and Kilkenny, trailing by seven points were left wondering what was happening!
This was possibly the wakeup call they required as they pounded the Wexford defence from this moment onwards. Repeating last week’s efforts against Carlow and assisted by the fast hands and clever decisions from newly signed outhalf Stephen Brennan, Joey Manuel and Alan Pembroke repeatedly pummelled the Wexford line supported in every attempt by the mighty duo of Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan. Wexford could hold out no longer and with 21 minutes gone on the clock scrum-half Victor Harper touched down in the corner. The referee was ideally placed to ensure that Harper had not entered touch before he scored. Clive Grehan unsuccessfully attempted the conversion.
Four minutes later, Alan O’Donovan scored in the opposite corner. The conversion attempt from Grehan hit the upright and bounced back in-field. Despite the continued battering Wexford were receiving, they managed to keep their heads and in the 28th minute Kilkenny were penalised for collapsing a maul which provided the Wexford number 12 the opportunity to level the scores. This he did with great ease and the score remained 10-10 going into the break.
Ashmore had some stern but encouraging words for his players at the break and Kilkenny began the second half with new vigour. Receiving the kick, Kilkenny smartly gained possession and control. With six minutes gone, winger Rod Hogan claimed his first try as Kilkenny charged over the line. Grehan was unsuccessful with the conversion. Wexford held out for the next 15 minutes and on one or two occasions they looked like scoring, were it not for some superb defensive tackling from Grehan, Lee Wilson and the ever present newly signed David Walsh.
With 21 minutes gone the flood gates opened as Kilkenny piled on the pressure and Duggan broke through the defence to score following a forward surge. Minutes later Hogan was again on hand to get his second try of the game. This time Grehan was bang on target with the conversion. With very little time left on the clock, Hogan again scored moments later having intercepted a pass deep in his own half. The speedy winger was not to be caught as he touched down under the posts completing a hat-trick of tries. Grehan added the conversion to leave the final score 34 – 10 in Kilkenny’s favour.
Despite a shaky start, this was a good all-round performance from Kilkenny which keeps them in contention for a place in the final. Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Victor Ryan and Willie Duggan were the driving force behind this win with Stephen Brennan, Lee Wilson, David Walsh and Johnny Harper putting in very solid performances.
Kilkenny now have a break until 16th September when they take on Gorey in the next round of the South East League. This gives Kilkenny time to step up preparations for the upcoming Leinster League opener against Malahide on the 30th September. Gorey should provide a bigger challenge than their neighbours Wexford and of course in true Gorey/Kilkenny tradition, rivalry will be fierce. Gorey will no doubt be looking for revenge for their loss to Kilkenny in last year’s Towns Cup quarter final. The stage is set for a cracking game of rugby. Kick off in Gorey is 3.00pm.
Kilkenny Firsts: - Clive Grehan, Alan O’Donovan, Joe Manuel, Alan Pembroke, Rory O’Brien, Stephen Brennan, Victor Harper, Willie Duggan, Lee Wilson, Leon Madigan, David Walsh, Victor Ryan, Darren Bawle, Tom Massey, Wayne Kavanagh.
Subs: - Mick Hannigan, Emmet Lynch, Simon O’Shea, Johnny Harper, Rod Hogan.