Enniscorthy best in the land with second title in three years
Enniscorthy won their second Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Rugby Cup final in three years with an opportunistic victory over Instonians in Ashbourne on Saturday.
Enniscorthy 23 Instonians 7
The champions took full advantage of their chances, which generally came on the back of hard work and pressing that created mistakes by the Belfast club, to claim an impressive win.
It was a bruising affair played in windy, rainy conditions that made it difficult for both sides to show their best form. Indeed, after a lively start, the first-half descended into a contest littered with handling mistakes, making any kind of flow almost impossible.
The Slaneysiders looked good in the opening few minutes, pressing inside the '22 with Ivan Poole's dab-kick into the corner just about dealt with by the Instonians defence.
As the game settled and kicking became the most realistic way to change field position, the northerners got the better of the territorial battle and for almost half an hour the game was mostly played in the Enniscorthy half.
That said, the defending was exceptional and Instonians rarely made gains through the hands in that spell. The territorial dominance of the Ulster side ended around the half hour mark as a perfect Poole kick to the corner gave Enniscorthy a great attacking platform.
Hugh O'Neill and Poole combined to set Joe Bulmer away on the left wing in the aftermath of the kick to the corner but the lock was held up. Instonians cleared and produced their best move of the half, only for Robbie Kirk to be dragged out of bounds.
That break seemed to be the worst thing that happened to Instonians in the half as they tried to play expansively from left-to-right in the immediate aftermath. A handling error was pounced on by David O'Dwyer and he booted soccer-style three times from his own half into the clear and touched down to the left of the post.
Ivan Poole missed the conversion in the tricky cross-wind but Enniscorthy led 5-0 after 34 minutes. When the County Wexford club were penalised for going over the top of the ruck just before the interval, Instonians' Fraser Wright kicked wide from in front of the posts to let them off the hook.
Poole got to show off his own soccer skills within four minutes of the re-start as his kick was scooped up by O'Dwyer who off-loaded to Joe Bulmer, and the powerful lock had all the strength required to go over in the right corner.
A much more difficult kick was missed by Poole but he made amends in the 47th minute when knocking over a penalty to make the score 13-0 after Instonians were penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Yet that wasn't the game clincher. The Belfast boys are made of sturdy stuff and weren't going to leave their first All-Ireland Junior final behind them without a fight. After going through multiple phases, the electric heeled Wright broke the Enniscorthy resistance to touch down and he added the two-pointer himself.
Instonians had no chance to add extra pressure as they self-destructed just seconds later as their man sweeping behind the goalposts fumbled the ball backwards and Greg Jacob pounced to add Enniscorthy's third try. After the conversion was missed, Enniscorthy led 18-7 with 21 minutes left.
One more score was likely to put the game out of Instonians' reach and Enniscorthy duly delivered the killer blow four minutes after their third try. Again a handling error set them away on the right, as Killian Lett kicked the bouncing ball ahead and Ivan Jacob grounded over the try line.
From the right touchline Poole narrowly missed the two extras but it mattered little. Instonians put on plenty of pressure late in the game but a resilient, superb Enniscorthy defence stood firm to wrap up their second All-Ireland title in three years.
Enniscorthy: Angelo Todisco, Davy Murphy, Paddy Waters, Joe Bulmer, Seán Wall, Tom Ryan, Greg Jacob, Timmy Morrissey, Arthur Dunne, Ivan Poole, David O'Dwyer, Killian Lett (capt.), Hugh O'Neill, Ivan Jacob, Ross Barbour. Replacements - Evan Lett, Jack Kelly, James Doyle, Nick Doyle, Brian Bolger, Peadar O'Mahoney, James Ruth.
Instonians: Conor Gallagher, Glen Baxter (capt.), Alan Whitten, Harry Cleland, James LeBroy, Robert Whitten, Lewis McNamara, Rory McCurry, Matthew Keane, Fraser Wright, Josh Lewis, Rory Bell, Joe Fryers, Robbie Kirk, Andrew McGregor. Replacements - Josh Cregan, Mike Blackwood, Mark Maris, Matt Dawson. Richard McCarthy, David Scott, Matthew Kilpatrick.
Referee: Helen O'Reilly.