Enniscorthy close the gap on Ashbourne
Enniscorthy 18 Ashbourne 13
Enniscorthy must remain in defiant mood if they are to maintain their challenge for honours despite the concession of a late try to leaders Ashbourne in this hugely entertaining Leinster League Division 1A game at Ross Road, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.
While it ended as a day of woe through the concession of that late bonus point, when the visitors were awarded an 80th-minute penalty try, the home side can still take a lot more from this game. They were the superior side for the most part, which made the concession of that late try all the more difficult to accept.
Going into this game, Enniscorthy were six points adrift of the Meath side, so a victory was imperative if they were to maintain a title challenge. Indeed, had the visitors taken all points the destination of the league would have been but all decided.
But still Ashbourne will be happy to have taken a bonus point, given where they came from in the dying minutes, trailing 18-6 as the game moved towards additional time.
This bonus point could yet have a crucial say in the eventual destination of the title, but with Enniscorthy now just three points adrift, on 32 to their opponents' 35, they are still very much in the hunt for honours.
Ashbourne started promisingly with some dangerous early moves. Straight from the start they forced their opponents to defend on their own line.
Having been held up short with several drives, they decided to move the ball along the line, with left wing Matt Connolly bundled into touch by his opposite number David O'Dwyer at the corner flag.
Enniscorthy warmed up nicely to the task on hand, going on to have the better of the exchanges and some smart kicking from out-half Killian Lett forced the visitors deep into their own territory.
A neat kick through the defence saw Ivan Jacob beaten in a race for the touchdown, but with Lett continuing to pin the visitors inside their own '22, they forced a five-metre line-out.
Having won clean ball, they initiated a tremendous drive, only to be held out close to the posts despite several attempts to get over. From one of those drives Ashbourne were penalised for an indiscretion in the ruck, leaving Ivan Pole to kick the home side 3-0 in front after 20 minutes.
Ashbourne were relying on the quick counter-attacks of centre Simon Deevy to make ground but the Enniscorthy defence was disciplined and composed, getting in the early tackles.
Then after 25 minutes they increased their lead to 6-0 through another Poole penalty, after Ashbourne's Jeff Mahon was penalised as the home pack drove towards the line, leading to the second row being yellow carded.
While Enniscorthy were unable to translate their numerical advantage into scores, Ashbourne struck back for a Gavin Kennedy penalty on 31 minutes, leaving it 6-3 at the interval which must have been disappointing for the home side.
It looked as if things were going to get worse for Enniscorthy when Tomás Stamp was yellow carded for failing to roll away in a ruck but, nine minutes in, they got the game's opening try.
Following a great move as the ball was moved speedily along the line, David O'Dwyer crashed over for a try that Poole failed to convert, leaving them with an 11-3 lead.
Four minutes later a Gavin Kenny penalty kept the visitors in touch.
It took only a minute for Enniscorthy to make Ashbourne pay. From the re-start, Enniscorthy flanker Jim White got up under Poole's re-start, smartly fetching the ball from the air as Ashbourne failed to compete.
Continued his stride and driving run, he shook off several would-be tacklers to get over for a wonderful try. With Poole adding the extra points Enniscorthy now led 18-6, and looked capable of moving on.
Enniscorthy were well on their way towards victory, but they allowed Ashbourne to gain territory in the closing minutes, as a Kennedy kick forced a line-out five metres from the line.
Enniscorthy went to the back of the line with the throw, when it would have seemed the safer option to keep the ball at the front, with the result that Ashbourne forced a five-metre scrum.
Now it was a case of which pack was going to find the extras with the game moving into additional time, and Ashbourne got a big drive going.
Referee Pádraic Reidy penalised the home side for a collapsed scrum, and with Kennedy adding the conversion, it was a point conceded since there was little time left to retrieve the situation.
Enniscorthy's next game in the league is away to Boyne who sit in the middle of the division, while Ashbourne, who have taken six bonus points from their nine games played, will rest happily over the Christmas and new year festivities.
Enniscorthy: Richard Dunne (Evan Lett, 63); Ivan Jacob, Daniel Pim, Ivan Poole (capt.), David O'Dwyer; Killian Lett, Arthur Dunne; Tony White, David Murphy, Angelo Todisco; Tomás Stamp, Joe Carley (Joe Bulmer, 70), Tom Ryan, Nick Doyle, Jim White.
Ashbourne: Cathal Field; Maiky Massauger, Jack O'Brien, Simon Deevy, Matt Connolly; Adam Martin, Gavin Kennedy (capt.); Ciarán Roche, Brendan Meehan (Alan Wall, 40), Frank Keegan; Jeff Mahon (Jake Wall, 48), Seán Kent; Joey Szpara, Seán McKeon, Conor Hurley.
Referee: Pádraic Reidy (Leinster Branch).