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Saturday 3/4/10

Kilkenny Under 13’s were delighted to be asked to participate in this prestigious invitation-only tournament and get the chance to mix and compete with teams both new and familiar from around the country.

To ensure that the 50 odd matches needed to accommodate 19 teams could be played the tournament was run under mini rules with ten a side teams and 14 minutes games. The intense, high tempo games that these conditions demanded made for great entertainment and brought the best out of Kilkenny.

Kilkenny were drawn in a tough group made up of our great friends in Portlaoise as well as two Limerick sides, Bruff and Young Munster, plus a third Munster club, Tralee RFC.

Starting with a try by Mark Carrigan after 2 minutes following breaks from Daniel O’Connor and Ben Devlin, Kilkenny put on an irrestible display of quick offloading and support play to rack up six tries over the game against Bruff, home club of John ‘The Bull’ Hayes.

Ben Devlin and William Spencer both finished off moves with a dummy and sidestep to make it 3-0 at half time while the second half belonged to the beautifully balanced running of Darren Mullen who got a hat trick. The pick of his three scores was the third one when a move from a scrum a few metres from the Kilkenny line featuring Keelan McDermott, Jake McDonald, Noel Whelan, Ben Devlin and Jay Leahy twice and finally William Spencer saw Mullen dive over to applause from the large crowd.

Full time score was 6-1 to Kilkenny.

The pattern of the second game against Portlaoise, who Kilkenny were meeting for the third time this season, was remarkably similar to the first. An interception by Jake McDonald and a lovely offload when he was tackled led to the first try from prop Mark Carrigan.

Fine breaks from the two Daniel O’Connors, big ‘Doc’ and the pacy full back, created the unusual scenario of a hooker sidestepping in for a second try in two games. If word of this gets out Ben Devlin will surely be thrown out of the front row union! A training ground blindside break by out half McDonald from a scrum made just enough room for full back O’Connor to hare up the touchline for another 3-0 half time score.

Straight from the kick off the lively Spencer started a move in which Devlin again featured twice before Mullen and a fired up Jay Leahy drew defenders and gave Spencer the opportunity to finish off the move he started himself with a try.

It was far from one way traffic and it took a couple of huge tackles from Noel Whelan and then Leahy to prevent a hefty Portlaoise prop from scoring twice in a couple of minutes.

A good line out take by the all action Whelan 5 metres from his own line started a wonderful move where scrum half Ian Buckley and his half back partner McDonald worked a bit of space which flame haired flier Mullen took full advantage of to race in for his team’s fifth score.

Rare lapses in concentration allowed a good Portlaoise side to score two tries in only a minute but Kilkenny finished on a high when McDonald blocked down an attempted clearance, second row Finn Connolly sent a spectacular diving pass out to Michael Ryan and Ryan, showing no ill effects from his epic journey from The Canaries that morning, sent his centre partner Spencer in for the final score of the game to leave Kilkenny emphatic winners by a score of 6-2.

The next contest against an excellent Tralee team saw Kilkenny under a great deal of pressure, in particular, Mark Carrigan had to make a bone shuddering tackle on his opposite number to prevent a certain score, but tries in the first and last minutes of the half sent Kilkenny into the break leading 2-0.

For the first try breaks by the always willing Gareth Graham supported by McDonald and Mullen set up a ruck close to the Tralee line from where ‘Doc’ picked up and powered over. In the final minute of the half both William Spencer and McDonald again made good ground up the left wing. As happened all day Kilkenny produced quick ruck ball and, although he would probably have scored himself, Jay Leahy unselfishly passed for the other O’Connor to touch down.

Tralee were hit with a real sucker punch straight from the second half kick off. Ben Devlin caught the ball, drove forward and sent a beautifully timed pass out to the ever present Darren Mullen to weave his way 30 metres up the pitch and pop to the spring heeled William Spencer. Confusing pitch markings saw Spencer dive before the line but he had the presence of mind and agility to bounce up and go over the correct try line before the defence could react.

The Kerry team cranked up the pressure again for the next few minutes and were marching Kilkenny back down the pitch until the on fire Mullen swooped for a terrific intercept try. Tralee came right back again and got the try their big hearted display deserved but Kilkenny finished with the last word when a break from a scrum and a defence splitting dummy from Jake McDonald-who definitely had the shiniest hair of all the out halves in the tournament- led to the number 10 scoring the try that left the final score at 5-1 to Kilkenny.

For the final group game Kilkenny were pitted against the black and amber of Limerick’s Young Munster. Despite being considerably the smaller team Kilkenny started really well, a fine run by Darren Mullen being halted by a high tackle. . The penalty was tapped quickly and Mark Carrigan charged on before passing to Ben Devlin who fed Michael Ryan for the opening score.

Young Munster came straight back, scoring a minute later from a tap penalty of their own and then just before half time a great break from a scrum led to their out half getting a second.

The second half saw excellent rugby from both teams before a bit of controversy saw the game interrupted three minutes into the second half with Kilkenny threatening the Limerick side’s line. Thankfully the game resumed after a short break and the remaining four minutes witnessed a parade of Kilkenny attacks repulsed by terrific defence.

Kilkenny never panicked at the lack of a score and with the last move of the game Young Munster’s defence had been stretched enough for Jake McDonald to take advantage with a searing break and the equalising try.

In the cup quarter finals Kilkenny were drawn against the hosts and reigning champions UL Bohemians. As expected they proved to be a very strong team and despite a great effort from Kilkenny, including being inches from scoring on two occasions, a try in each half saw the Limerick team prevail.

The final verdict from all involved was that in an excellent, very well organised tournament our Under 13’s not only thoroughly enjoyed the experience but represented themselves and their club with great pride and honour.

Niall McDermott 5 April 2010