|U13s Portlaoise 05 - 17 Kilkenny
Leinster League Quarterfinal
Kilkenny took the field against a giant Portlaoise team on a beautiful, bright morning, captained by livewire centre William Spencer. From the very beginning it was obvious that this was going to be no easy run out for either team but instead a highly skilled, hard fought game between two well matched teams.
Both sides showed great adventure in possession and, for Kilkenny, both winger Lyndon Brannigan and No. 6 Jay Leahy had to make multiple tackles in the first ten minutes to protect their line. Prominent also in the early exchanges was tearaway flanker Aiden McDonald and the increasingly influential second row Noel Whelan who carried strongly as well as turning over two balls in the tackle.
Despite the disparity in size Kilkenny’s set pieces were rock solid through most of the first half typified by two line outs in the last few minutes of the half. First Noel Whelan burst through on a messy Portlaoise tap down and powered deep into the opposition half.
Just a minute later Kilkenny again disrupted a Portlaoise throw in and this time No. 8 Daniel O’Connor charged inside the 22. The ball was then taken on by power house prop Mark Carrigan, thankfully showing no ill effects from a car crash on the way to the game, who caused some road kill of his own before being hauled down 5 metres out. A quick blind side break and pass from out half Jake McDonald saw ‘Doc’ dive over by the left touch flag for the first score of the game. The number 10 duly stroked over the conversion to send Kilkenny into the break leading by 7 points to 0.
Portlaoise came charging out of the blocks at the start of the second half and despite tremendous Kilkenny defence, including another turnover from second row Whelan and a cracking tackle from left wing Paddy Ryan, a fine break by the Portlaoise out half and great support from his outside backs ended with an excellent try in the right corner.
Kilkenny responded magnificently to this set back . Scrum half Ian Buckley expertly orchestrated a series of quick rucks and defence testing bursts from Mark Carrigan and Daniel O’Connor as well as replacements Eoin Clarkson and the abrasive Brendan McSorley, to make sure that Portlaoise were spending concerted periods scrambling to defend their line.
Having gained a stranglehold Kilkenny kept exerting pressure, particularly in the scrum where the massive Portlaoise pack were regularly in reverse. Hooker Ben Devlin was giving his customary high quality contribution, including a number of crucial strikes against the head, as the well drilled Kilkenny team refused their opponents a minute respite.
On 25 minutes No 7 Aiden McDonald, who had a fantastic game combining fierce aggression in the tackle and at the breakdown as well as increasing maturity in terms of his discipline, shot from the scrum and forced the Portlaoise out half into a hurried clearance.
Full back Daniel O’Connor confidently caught the ball on the half way line and side stepped two chasers before linking with centres Michael Ryan and William Spencer and his namesake at Number 8 who carried the ball to the 22 where an increasingly tired defence conceded a penalty for lying over the ball. The resulting penalty proved no challenge to Jake McDonald who stretched his side’s lead to 5 points.
Portlaoise followed with a great charge into the Kilkenny 22 but were denied in quick succession by a flying tackle from Michael Ryan and excellent covering from full back O’Connor who touched down a dangerous Portlaoise kick ahead just before the onrushing attackers.
Showing a commendable desire to keep playing positive rugby in the last minute of the game Kilkenny managed to force a scrum inside the Portlaoise 22. Not for the first time this season, Daniel O’Connor picked up from the back of the scrum and charged over under the posts to seal the win and send Kilkenny into the semi finals on a score of 17 points to 5.
In terms of the tackle count honourable mention most go to Brendan McSorley and the tireless Finn Connolly in the second row but, setting a very high standard by bursting into double figures, was the irrepressible Aiden McDonald.
Niall McDermott, 13th February, 2010