Gorey win by the minimum
Gorey 20 North Kildare 19
Gorey RFC's U18s faced North Kildare in Clonattin on Saturday as they tried to continue their impressive unbeaten run in the Leinster League.
The referee and both sets of coaches closely inspected the playing surface, as some other games had to be abandoned because of the freezing overnight conditions. But thankfully for both teams, and the large group of supporters, the referee deemed the pitch safe to play on.
These two teams had met earlier in this competition when Gorey travelled to The Maws in Kilcock and came away with a narrow win in a close fought affair.
It was the visitors who started the stronger, forcing Gorey to defend wave after wave of attached in their own 22. But Gorey's Frank Kavanagh set the tone for a staunch defence when he put in some huge hits to stop North Kildare in their tracks.
North Kildare were finally rewarded with a penalty after 14 minutes, but Gorey were relieved to see the ball sail wide of the posts.
But the visitors went straight back to work, forcing Gorey to defend on their own line and it was only a matter of time before the Kildare men punch a hole in the tiring defence to score a well-deserved try in the 28th minute. North Kildare's talented out-half slotted over the conversion for the extra two points to leave the score Gorey 0 North Kildare 7.
This score seemed to spur Gorey into action and from the kick-off they pressurised North Kildare, testing their defence for a change. From here Gorey quickly forced a scrum and despite the Kildare men's size advantage Gorey's scrum was solid, and the ball was quickly fed by scrumhalf Cillian Tomkins to his halfback partner Mark Kehoe, who spotted a gap and deftly put in the most exquisite grubber for Gorey Centre, Seán Wafer to chase. It was a North Kildare defender who got to the ball first, but he couldn't stop Wafer from stealing the ball and running in for Gorey's opening try, just minutes after going behind. Mikey Duke added the conversion to leave the sides level with just five minutes remaining in the half.
Both sides were giving the supporters great entertainment, with great play from both packs in particular.
With the last minute of the first half ticking down, the ball was knocked forward into touch and North Kildare were awarded a scrum with metres of Gorey's try line.
Quick thinking from North Kildare's number 8, and possibly a bit of switching off by Gorey's defence, allowed him in for a fairly easy try directly under the posts. The conversion was a forgone conclusion and with the whistle sounding for the end of the half, Gorey found themselves trailing 7-14.
The second half kicked-off at the same frenetic pace that the first half had ended. Liam Molloy carried great ball time and time again, and Frank Kavanagh continued to lead by example with storming line breaks.
Gorey's lineout, normally one of the strong points, wasn't operating a well as one would have expected, but they took a clean ball within North Kildare's 22, after 7 minutes of the second half and they rolled a well-controlled maul inexorably toward the North Kildare try line. Cormac Walsh dived over to ground the ball, but the referee had already run under the posts to signal a penalty-try for an infringement by North Kildare. No need then for the conversion and suddenly Gorey found themselves back on level terms 14 - 14.
The crescendo from the crowd got even louder and both sides fought tooth and nail to try to gain advantage. There was really nothing to divide these tow strong determined sides.
The visitors were penalised ten minutes later for being offside and Gorey captain Mikey Duke took it upon himself to have a crack a goal, which he successfully kicked to put the home side in the lead for the first time in the game. Gorey 17, North Kildare 14.
There was still nothing between the teams, when five minutes later North Kildare won a penalty of their own, but to the dismay of the visiting supporters the ball fell just short.
With just five minutes of normal time remaining Gorey were awarded another penalty, which Duke kicked to extend Gorey's lead 20-14 and it was left to the home side to close out the final few minutes of the game.
But the visitors had other ideas, as they stepped up the pace with one last push for a winning score.
They pinned Gorey on their own line and they sent attack after attack crashing into Gorey's defensive line, falling each time just inches from the line.
Finally, the Kildare men were rewarded as the managed to get over in the corner, to bring them within one point of Gorey with the difficult conversion still to come.
Silence fell over Clonattin, as everyone in the ground seemed to hold their breath. However, after a time, the referee decided that North Kildare's kicker had delayed too long over the conversion attempt and said that he had run out of time.
A relieved Gorey restarted with just seconds remaining and they managed to regain possession and kick the ball into touch to close what was one of the most entertaining games in quite a while.
The game finished Gorey 20, North Kildare 19.
Gorey welcome Wicklow to Clonattin next Saturday, for another big game before the Christmas break.