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SOUTH EAST LEAGUE U13 SEMI FINAL.   5th December 2009


Thankfully, a late pitch inspection passed the ground as fit for what turned out to be a cracking game of rugby. A big Enniscorthy team signalled their intentions early on by forcing a line out 30 metres from the Kilkenny line after only 5 minutes. They won the throw in and quickly transferred the ball to their very tall outside centre who raced in for a try.

Kilkenny worked their way into the game over the next 10 minutes and some good rucking by the forwards and a burst by centre Michael Ryan brought the ball to 10 metres from the Enniscorthy line where Kilkenny were awarded a scrum. No. 8 Daniel O'Connor picked up the ball from the back of what was a rock steady scrum all afternoon and crashed through the defence for a try.

Enniscorthy then produced 5 minutes of fierce pressure with a series of rucks and scrums close to the Kilkenny line but were unable to break the Kilkenny defensive wall. In particular, hooker Ben Devlin, scrum half Ian Buckley and versatile wing Jay Leahy produced a try saving tackle each before the ball was turned over and the pressure relieved.

A threatening run by Kilkenny full back, and captain for the day, Daniel O'Connor was halted by a high tackle, for which the Enniscorthy player was sent to the line. A good run from the subsequent penalty by prop Gareth Graham, who had an excellent game in the scrum and in the loose, saw the ball go to out half Jake McDonald. Jake made a slashing break then offloaded to No. 8 O' Connor and 'Doc' made a powerful 15 metre burst to score under the posts. Out half McDonald slotted his second conversion to bring the score to 14-5 to Kilkenny.

The next few minutes saw play zip from one end of the pitch to the other. First, Enniscorthy forced their way into the home 22 where they were awarded a penalty that their outhalf just sent wide. Minutes later and a brilliant 50 metre run by Michael Ryan ended with him tackled into touch 15 metres from the opposition's line. Enniscorthy's first attempted clearance was blocked down by Gareth Graham, their second picked up and returned well by full back O'Connor.

On the stroke of half time an Enniscorthy attempt to run the ball out of defence was stopped by Jake McDonald's tackle. When Jake immediately sprang to his feet and contested for the ball a la Brian O'Driscoll the referee awarded the penalty to Kilkenny which McDonald himself converted to leave the half time score at 17-5 in favour of the home side.

Two minutes into the second half and great pressure from well organised Kilkenny backs forced a knock on 25 metres from the Kilkenny line close to the right touchline. From the scrum Kilkenny orchestrated as good a try as any of us will see this season. Scrum half Buckley started the move with a sniping blindside break. When he was tackled he offloaded to his No. 8 and 'Doc' changed the direction of the attack with a run and pass to out half McDonald. Jake passed to centre William Spencer who, not for the first time, straightened inside his opposite number, drew the full back and gave a lovely pass to his centre partner.

Although he received the ball on the half way line with three defenders still in front of him Michael Ryan just turned on the afterburners and scorched down the touchline and around under the posts for the try leaving a trail of despairing tacklers in his wake.

Strangely enough this proved to be the last try of the game but, thankfully for the decent crowd on an increasingly rainswept day, not the end of the good rugby.

Top of the tackle count for Kilkenny were Ben Devlin, Aiden & Jake McDonald, Jay Leahy and Mark Carrigan the latter who also made a lot of ground with the ball in hand.

Overall, an excellent display by Kilkenny and one which sets them up for next week's final against Wexford. The final score, 24 points to 5 in favour of Kilkenny.

Niall McDermott, 5th December 2009