J1: Leinster League, Sunday, 9/12/12
by Padraic Treacy
It is a known fact in rugby circles that every team’s foremost objective is to beat Kilkenny at some point in time, a legacy that Kilkenny rugby has enjoyed for many years. Sundays opponents, Gorey, were no different and this game was a battle from beginning to end.
With four points between the teams going into the game, both needed a win to secure their positions at the top of the table. Malahide’s away win over Mullingar on Saturday saw them jump to the leader’s position which they now share with Kilkenny with 36 points each, however Malahide are just in front on points difference. Both teams have now pulled eight points clear of the chasing pack and followers of this league will wait anxiously to see who will fall first in the New Year.
The game was played at fierce pace in the opening quarter and it took Kilkenny nearly the entire first half to get into this game, however they defended superbly and that was most likely their saving grace on the day.
It was Gorey who opened the scoring on 11 minutes with a solid penalty kick from their outhalf. Kilkenny’s Willie Wright had an opportunity to level the score in the19th minute but his attempt was off target. Full back Julian Hughes took over the kicking duties and with 28 minutes gone he landed the first points for Kilkenny with a superb kick at posts. Right on the stroke of half time, with Kilkenny applying great pressure, Hughes put the home side in front with another fine kick at goal giving Kilkenny a 6-3 lead at half-time.
Kilkenny began the second half with greater ferocity and determination. The occasional sloppy play demonstrated in the opening half was finally put to bed. Suddenly however, Kilkenny found themselves down to 13 men following yellow card infringements from both Philly Walsh and Philly Ryan in the 49th and 51st minutes respectively. Gorey capitalised on Kilkenny’s misfortune and levelled the score. Despite the deficit in numbers, the home side pulled together and denied the visitors any chance at scoring for the remainder of the game.
Kilkenny took control of matters and attacked at every opportunity. Backs linked with forwards and vice-versa to produce some fine attacking rugby. Indeed Kilkenny were unlucky not to notch up a number of scores but in fairness to their opposition, some great defending denied them any opportunities.
In the 59th minute, Hughes was handed a rather easy opportunity but the usually flawless kicker completely miss-timed his attempt and it sailed low and wide. Kilkenny regrouped and applied immense pressure on the Gorey defence from this moment on. The reward for their endeavours came with ten minutes left on the clock when Hughes, making up for his earlier mistake, dummied and jinked his way through the Gorey defence and dived over the line to score a fabulous try which he duly converted. Gorey heads fell and with it their aspirations of securing a losing bonus point.
Despite a slow first half performance, Kilkenny outshone their opponents in the second half. The determination and camaraderie displayed by each player towards the other was a joy to witness. Competition for places is tight amongst the players but it is inspiring to see players spur each other on. Kilkenny have a real chance at becoming champions this season with an automatic promotion spot to Division 1 the just reward. Malahide will without doubt have something to say about that, however it is Kilkenny’s immense team spirit that will carry them through.
With this in mind, best on the day, and for the second week running, were No. 8, Willie Duggan and centre, Philly Walsh. Duggan continuously put his body on the line for the sake of his team-mates which was quite evident from his appearance at the end of the game, while Walsh’s move to the centre was a wise choice from the selection panel. His driving runs and strength in defence are great to witness. Well done to all.
Kilkenny Firsts can now enjoy a well-earned Christmas break. There next outing is on January 6th 2013 when they travel to Clane and they are hoping to keep the drive for promotion very much alive. Kick-off in Clane is at 2.30pm.
Kilkenny Firsts: - Julian Hughes, Alan Pembroke, Philly Walsh, Joey Manuel, Killian Everard, Willie Wright, Clive Kavanagh, Willie Duggan, John Harper, Philly Ryan, Gerry Clarke, Victor Ryan, Simon O’Shea, Martin Leahy, Wayne Kavanagh.
Subs: - Eddie Brennan, Tom Massey, Diarmaid Hickey, John Phelan, Conor Phelan.