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Monday 19 August 2019

Glory, Glory, Enniscorthy!

Rugby, Provincial Towns Cup Final: Enniscorthy 10 Wicklow 9

Tom Ryan of Enniscorthy RFC lifts the cup during the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final match between Enniscorthy RFC and Wicklow RFC at Navan RFC in Navan. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Tom Ryan of Enniscorthy RFC lifts the cup during the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final match between Enniscorthy RFC and Wicklow RFC at Navan RFC in Navan. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

David Medcalf at Navan RFC

Pre-match favourites Enniscorthy took the honours as predicted in the Bank of Ireland Provincial Town Cup decider in Navan as they broke Wicklow hearts on Sunday.

The losers left feeling that their pockets had been picked after an encounter which they dominated most of the way from start to finish.

But they were undone by their inability find a way over the 'Scorthy line while the victors registered the only try of a low scoring struggle through Arthur Dunne.

The tone of the afternoon's proceedings was summed up by the winning score, which came off the boot of number eight Nick Doyle, who took over the kicking duties after Ivan Poole departed through injury.

Doyle's decisive penalty kick was patently mis-hit, yet it crawled over the bar nevertheless to give his side a lead they never surrendered - a triumph of effectiveness, and to hell with style.

The eventual winners, under the direction of former Wicklow coach Kiaran Hurrell, entered the contest at the Dublin Road venue on the crest of a wave of superb form which carried the side out of the ranks of junior rugby as they booked their spot in next term's All-Ireland League.

They reached the cup final having only lost the All Ireland Junior Cup final since September at the end of a season of success unprecedented in the club's history built on a formula which delivered tries for fun. While they were busy winning their promotion to AIL, Wicklow were waiting in the long grass knowing this was a match which no one really expected them to win.

Yet George Naoupu's side also knew this was not mission impossible as they had already defeated the trophy holders in the league and they started the game with seven medal winners from the cup victory over the same opponents in 2016.

Three years ago it was the kicking of out-half Niall Earls which proved decisive and Sunday's captain lost no time in putting his name on the score sheet on this occasion.

An Enniscorthy indiscretion in a ruck on their own 10 metre line yielded the penalty and the skipper elected to take on the long range kick, which he duly landed high and handsome.

The mood had a been set as the favourites looked nervous and error prone while the early leaders appeared eager and assured, stealing a turnover to relieve the pressure when briefly forced back into their own '22'.

As the action returned to the other end of the pitch, they stole the ball once more and it appeared for a moment that number eight Wes Wojnar had carved out a try scoring opportunity, only for referee Clive Wardrop to whistle up a minor indiscretion.

The Wicklow supporters were in rowdy, rousing voice by now, cheering loudly every time their midfield pair of Shane Farrar, with his bustling straight line running, or veteran Billy Ngawini, with his more subtle approach, had ball in hand.

Together the two centres had a big hand in forcing the penalty from which Earls extended the lead to 6-nil, this time tapping over from straightforward close range.

After all their free scoring exploits of recent times, it was perhaps no surprise that Enniscorthy elected to kick for the corner when they were awarded a similar opportunity shortly afterwards.

The line-out ball was duly secured but possession was then tamely surrendered at maul time, leaving the decision to spurn the three-pointer appear just a little arrogant.

The cup holders continued to fumble and bumble while the Wicklow fans continued to bellow, the noise reaching ear bursting levels as Naoupu broke free up the left.

However, the New Zealander was contained by a back-pedalling defence deep in their own '22' and, after a line-out, Ivan Poole was able to boot clear to lift the siege.

Eventually, much Wicklow good work was un-done as David O'Dwyer led a rare charge up the left wing, leading to another penalty.

Enniscorthy this time opted to take the scrum from which number nine Arthur Dunne eventually wormed his way over the line.

Poole converted without fuss to give his team a 7-6 half time advantage they scarcely deserved.

Any suggestion that the try would jolt the Enniscorthy engine into running smoothly after the break was soon dismissed as they resumed making the mistakes and conceding the penalties which set up the openings for Earls.

The Wicklow captain pulled one kick from long distance narrowly wide - how costly that was to prove - but he was on the mark as 55 minute elapsed, easing his men back into the driving seat.

However, though Wojnar and Naoupu continued to make hard, bruising yards, that proved to be the end of their scoring for the day as the pack came under pressure in the scrums.

Killian Lett, now calling the shots in the absence of Poole, lashed the ball long and, for once, it was not returned with interest as the follow up runners forced the line-out which yielded the crucial penalty.

Up stepped Nick Doyle whose scruffy strike sufficed to win the day.

With around ten minutes left to play, Wicklow pushed eagerly for a score as the ref's watch ticked into overtime, until eventually Farrar was collared in possession, allowing Daniel Pim to make the turnover and Killian Let to find a final relieving touch.

Cue the final whistle. Cue a fourth cup medal for Enniscorthy captain Tom Ryan. Cue some serious heartache for Wicklow.

Enniscorthy: Richard Dunne, Ivan Jacob, Killian Lett, Daniel Pim, David O'Dwyer; Ivan Poole, Arthur Dunne; Angelo Todisco, Davy Murphy, Paddy Waters, Timmy Morrissey, captain Tom Ryan Alan Jacob, Brian Bolger, Nick Doyle. Subs: Hugh O'Neill for Poole, Stephen Hadley for Morrissey, Conall Kavanagh for Todisco; not used - Billy Wickham, James Doyle.

Wicklow: Ben Porter Adam Cullen, Billy Ngawini, Shane Farrar, Simon Breen; captain Niall Earls, Dennis Higgins; Eanna Killeen, Jack McKenna, Neil Dickenson George Naoupu, John Jenkinson, Liam Gaffney, Luke Geresekowski, Wes Wojnar. Subs: Alex Porter for Cullen; Eddie Downes for Dickenson; Pablo Castelo Vinolo for Jenkinson; Mark Nicholson for Killeen.

Referee: C Wardrop (Leinster).

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