Slick Gorey run in seven tries
Provincial Towns Cup: Gorey 43 Portlaoise 3
Gorey made light work of a limited Portlaoise outfit on the way to a resounding 43-3 win in the first round of the Provincial Towns Cup played at a bone-chillingly cold Clonattin on Sunday.
Running in seven tries is an impressive feat on any day, but for a lock to end up with a hat-trick to his name, as captain Stephen Gardiner did here in a barnstorming display, is a rare achievement worthy of praise.
The hosts operate a division higher than Portlaoise, and that relative gulf in class was apparent pretty much from the off, with the midlanders going through the phases early on without ever exiting their own half.
Darragh O'Leary was a pillar in the line-out and that constant set-piece threat was bound to tell eventually, as some huffing and puffing from Gorey led to Stephen Horan spotting a gap on the defence on 13 minutes before scoring between the posts, with James Nolan adding the conversion.
They had doubled their try count before too long, as a rather hopeful Garryowen from Horan bounced kindly for midfield partner Stephen Duke to gather, although he still had a lot of ground to burn up before finishing well in the corner.
Nolan's conversion kick went wide off the post, while Portaoise had a penalty attempt held up in the wind.
The visitors made some ground deep in Gorey territory without great success, and the game soon reverted back to type as Gardiner crashed over for their third try on 29 minutes, with Nolan tagging on the extras.
Portlaoise finally broke their duck courtesy of a Jack Reddin penalty, but they were already fighting a losing battle by the time the interval came around.
More red-zone pressure nine minutes after the break saw Nolan supply Gardiner for an easy finish between the posts, with Nolan converting to make it 26-3.
Gardiner then sat out ten minutes in the sin-bin, although it had no adverse effect on his team-mates' fortunes. In fact, they added a fifth try during that period of numerical disparity as replacement Ciarán Allen barged over not long after entering the action.
Their sixth try arrived twelve minutes before time when full-back Michael Duke popped out to Joe Naughton along the sideline, and there was no catching the speedy winger as he ran in unopposed.
And the rampant locals consolidated their place in the second round in some style, as some unrelenting inter-change that didn't initially yield intended results eventually saw Gardiner run in his hat-trick just as the clock ticked into injury-time.
A brief flare-up in the aftermath to that try illustrated Portaoise's frustrations at being outclassed, while the winners had the luxury of bringing up flanker Killian Breen to kick the conversion after Stephen Duke was sin-binned during the fracas.
Despite easing home here, Gorey will be fully cognisant that stiffer assignments await in this competition, but at the same time they will also be confident of an extended run if they can overcome Naas away in round two.
Gorey: Kevin Browne, Ethan Badham, Darragh Bellanova; Tom Jameson, Stephen Gardiner (capt.); Darragh O'Leary, Killian Pierce, Stanley Hadden; Stephen Horan, Stephen Duke; Robert Harrington, James Nolan, Andrew Walsh, Joe Naughton; Michael Duke. Replacements: Ciarán Allen for Bellanova (48), Barry O'Connor for Badham (65), Eoin Walsh for Horan (65), Eddie Horan for Nolan (68).
Portlaoise: Andrew Tyndall, Harry Lalor, Brian Flannery; Diarmuid Joyce, William Sherlock; Mark Sherlock, Pádraigh Bourke, Robin Foot; Philip O'Brien, Jack Reddin; Maik Ikpomwen, Simon Williams, Kevin Griffin, Matthew Thomson; Andrew Ryan. Replacements: Armand Smit, Philip Maguire, Adam Greene, Ross Cooper, Eanna Delaney, Cristopher Cahill.