| ATHY V KILKENNY UNDER 13 FRIENDLY - 17/10/09
Another unseasonably fine day for this Under 13 friendly but a much tighter and more intense game than last week's high scoring try fest and all the better for it. Kilkenny were put to the pin of their collar by a mobile and committed Athy team who boasted serious pace meaning the result of this match was in doubt right to the final whistle.
Kilkenny started very well pressuring Athy into an early foul near their own 22 and Jake McDonald kicked the penalty after only 3 minutes.
Three minutes later and the move of the match began in unpromising circumstances when Athy won their own penalty 10 metres from Kilkenny's try line. The Athy kicker pulled his place kick wide where it was caught behind the posts by Kevin Rowe who immediately counter attacked before passing to wing Lyndon Brannigan to run the ball out to the Kilkenny 10 metre line.
Kilkenny arrived in numbers to the breakdown and secured quick ruck ball for scrum half Ian Buckley to feed his out half, Jake McDonald, who drew two defenders beautifully before releasing centre Michael Ryan to hare around the Athy cover and under the posts from almost the half way line. This was converted by McDonald for a 10-0 lead.
Athy started to put some good moves of their own together from a couple of turnovers at rucks and it took two crunching tackles from Alex Foley on his opposing wing within a couple of minutes of each other and two by Jake McDonald, including a despairing hand trip on the same player, to prevent scores. A fine run from a scrum by Daniel O'Connor carried on by Lyndon Brannigan brought play back into the Athy half and relieved the fierce pressure.
On 29 minutes Athy were awarded a line out on their own 10metre line. Concerted pressure from the Kilkenny forwards forced a turnover which was snapped up by Jake McDonald who made a fine break 30 metres up the pitch before a 10 metre burst by O'Connor finished with the No. 8 scoring a try. The conversion left the score at 17 - 0 to Kilkenny as the first half ended.
Any Kilkenny thoughts that the game was won were firmly banished only 2 minutes into the second half. A strong Athy attack was stopped by a great tackle from Jake McDonald but Kilkenny hands in the subsequent ruck were penalised by the referee. Athy tapped the penalty and quickly transferred it out the line for a try that they were unable to convert.
Kilkenny attacked well from the kick off and won a lineout on the Athy 22. Daniel O'Connor made a good run but as the ball was being passed out a knock on led to an Athy scrum 15 metres from their line. Kilkenny scrum half Buckley hounded his opposite number and turned the ball over in the tackle but unfortunately another knock on over the Athy line meant that Kilkenny came away scoreless from this attack.
16 minutes into the half and Kilkenny managed to steal an Athy defensive lineout 35 metres out and spin the ball across the back line twice and produce quick ball from two rucks before centre William Spencer finished very well in the right corner.
The game became very open now with some thrilling attacking rugby to delight the large crowd. First, Michael Ryan took off on one of his trademark runs, galloping like a thoroughbred down the left touchline before being knocked into touch only metres out. Then Athy worked their own speed merchant into space just inside their own half and he showed great pace to race in under the Kilkenny posts for a try which brought the score to 24-12.
10 minutes later and Athy were attacking hard again. Showing no regard for his personal safety replacement wing Jack Woodgate mowed down one of their huge forwards for the second time since he'd come on the field but still Athy managed to release their other flying winger to score an unconverted try leaving the score now at 24-17.
When the pressure is on you hope for your experienced players to step up and, thankfully for Kilkenny, hooker Ben Devlin did just that. From the kick off he hammered the Athy receiver, driving him down the field like a bull with a matador on his horns and, with great support from his pack, forcing a desperate Athy defence to concede a penalty 10 metres from their line. Jake McDonald coolly slotted the three pointer to cap another excellent place kicking display.
As it turns out it was just as well the 3 points were taken as, despite a strong tackle from replacement wing Kevin Mullen slowing the move, Athy were game enough to score another try under the posts. The conversion proved to be the last action of an exciting game leaving Kilkenny the victors by a score of 24 points to 17.
Having been tested so severely yet still winning the game should do wonders for Kilkenny's confidence as we look forward to next week's South East League game in Arklow.
In the whirlwind of try scoring last week I inadvertently credited Michael Ryan with two tries which were actually scored by Jake McDonald and William Spencer. Apologies to both players.
Niall McDermott, 17th October 2009