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Monday 25 March 2019

A display of true champions

Leinster League Division 1A: Enniscorthy 28 Kilkenny 6

Enniscorthy’s Alan Jacob gets a pass away with team-mates Paddy Waters and Angelo Todisco grounded
Enniscorthy’s Alan Jacob gets a pass away with team-mates Paddy Waters and Angelo Todisco grounded
The Enniscorthy players and back room team celebrate their outright Leinster League Division 1A victory on Saturday

Brendan Furlong

Killian Lett scored two excellent second-half tries to finish off a determined Kilkenny challenge as Enniscorthy lifted the Leinster League Division 1A title before a large and enthusiastic crowd at their Ross Road home on Saturday.

After the concession of two penalties in the opening five minutes, it all ended brightly for the Enniscorthy side, who gradually assumed control into the wind and rain.

They blew away the visitors with a dominant display up front following a shaky start, and with the assistance of the elements they went on to overpower their opponents.

They were down some key players through injury, after what has been a hectic campaign so far, also reaching the Irish Junior Cup final where they lost out to Ashbourne, while also qualifying for the Provincial Towns Cup quarter-finals to come.

And it was to become a real test for the Enniscorthy eight as Kilkenny sought to take them on up front from the start.

With Kilkenny seemingly determined to take advantage of the elements from the off, they camped inside the home side's '22 during the opening minutes.

Having tested the home defence with some driving play, they forced three scrums just outside the '22 in quick succession. It was to become a test of the Enniscorthy pack, but on two occasions they were driven back.

Just three minutes into the game, the Enniscorthy front five came under pressure, being penalised by the referee, leaving Pádraig Mahon to put Kilkenny in front from a successful penalty kick.

Two minutes later the Enniscorthy scrum was once again penalised, with Mahon kicking the resulting penalty to put his side 6-0 in front.

The result was also of importance to Kilkenny. Sitting in fourth place going into this game, a top four finish at the end of the campaign would see them qualify for the Irish Junior Cup.

One could see that energy in their play as they stormed all over the opposition through the opening ten minutes, but they were unable to get that much-needed try to set them up for a serious challenge.

Seeing their scrum under pressure, Enniscorthy set about remedial action immediately, switching second row Paddy Waters into a front row that was under pressure.

And the result became apparent from the following scrum as Waters made an immediate impact, with Kilkenny's one advantage being immediately neutralised.

Now having put a nervous opening behind them, the Enniscorthy pack seemed more settled. They were aided by some driving play from number 8 Nick Doyle, who went on to enjoy his best game of the campaign, as well as David Murphy and captain Tom Ryan, and the home side gradually began to assume control.

Having forced a scrum inside Kilkenny's half, scrum-half Arthur Dunne made a great break from the base of the scrum, bringing play right up to their opponents' '22.

This enabled them to apply pressure, leading to Kilkenny being penalised for offside in the back line, with Ivan Poole kicking a 14th-minute penalty to reduce the deficit to 6-3.

Enniscorthy were now beginning to rule up front, with both Doyle and Murphy putting in some driving runs, while Doyle also became dominant at the back of the line-out.

Twenty minutes in, Kilkenny were once again penalised for moving offside, leaving Poole to kick an excellent 35-metre penalty into the elements to bring the sides level (6-6).

Now growing in confidence, Enniscorthy continued to spread the ball along the line and it took some last-gasp tackling to deny them a try.

They still got the crucial boost nine minutes before the break, though, when Poole kicked his third successive penalty, giving his side a 9-6 lead which they managed to take into the interval.

With the wind strengthening down the pitch coupled with a heavy mist of rain, Enniscorthy showed admirable ball handling for the rest of the second-half, and suddenly their abrasive style of rugby began to create gaps in the Kilkenny back line.

Three minutes into the second-half, Poole was narrowly wide with a 40-metre penalty attempt, the howling wind taking the ball just outside the left upright, but it was inevitable that there was more to come, as the Enniscorthy pack began to set up attacking situations with some driving play.

Having forced a scrum just ten metres from the Kilkenny line, the home side's pack got on a tremendous drive, with the ball being moved to open side, and Killian Lett showed a safe pair of hands to control the ball and force his way over the line for a well-executed try.

With Poole adding the conversion, Enniscorthy now led 16-6 after 47 minutes, and were looking on their way to the points needed to clinch the title.

A brilliant line break from halfway by Nick Doyle sent Enniscorthy on their way once again five minutes later. Doyle's fine run created the ruck deep inside opposition territory, and with a quick recycle it was left to Lett to spot the gap to drive through the centre, handing off several would-be tackles to touch down under the posts following a 30-metre run.

Poole added the simple conversion taking his side into a 23-6 lead, and the celebrations were already under way.

Kilkenny forced some territory inside Enniscorthy's '22 but they were unable to breach an excellent defence where Lett and Hugh O'Neill were excellent in the centre, while half-backs Ivan Poole and Arthur Dunne were now controlling the game.

Having survived a couple of heavy scrums close to their line, Enniscorthy got a huge shove on in a scrum, enabling them to lift the siege and return inside Kilkenny territory.

A line-out steal from Doyle saw Enniscrorthy to mount a further attack. With just seven minutes remaining they forced a penalty and with confidence now on a high they decided to kick to the corner.

Once again Doyle won clean possession, leading to a tremendous drive, with Tom Ryan getting with the touchdown near the corner.

Poole saw his conversion attempt rebound off the upright, but now leading 28-6 the title was secure as Eniscorthy played out the final minutes in what was an historic occasion for the club.

Enniscorthy can now look forward to the play-offs with the other provincial winners as they bid to join the AIL Senior League for the first time, while also having the matter of the Provincial Towns Cup to deal with, a competition in which the club has such a proud record.

Enniscorthy: Richard Dunne; Ivan Jacob, Hugh O'Neill, Killian Lett, David O'Dwyer; Ivan Poole, Arthur Dunne; James Doyle, David Murphy, Angelo Todisco; Paddy Waters, Tom Ryan (capt.); Brian Bolger, Nick Doyle, Alan Jacob. Replacements: Billy Wickham, Daniel Pim, Conal Kavanagh, Stephen Hadley, Luke Cummins.

Kilkenny: Liam Cuddy; Jack Walsh, Hugh Lane, Pádraig Mahon, Linden Brannigan; Jake McDonald, Darren McGrath; Pat Dempsey, Martin Leahy, Simon O'Shea; Andy Neinheius, Liam Phelan; Jason Connolly, Gary Dunne, Wesley Carter. Replacements: Tadgh Butler, Kyle Roche, Philip Walsh, Ian McEntyre.

Referee: Clive Wardrup (Portarlington).

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