Silver lining for Dundalk in Towns Plate showdown
THE Provincial Towns Plate may not have been top of Dundalk's wishlist at the start of the season, but there's nothing like a bit of silverware to add some gloss to a long, hard campaign.
In a hastily arranged final Ene Fa'atau took his troops to Ashbourne RFC to face Newbridge, a side they had already faced twice this term, losing narrowly at home 13 -11, before racking up a huge 64-24 win in Newbridge in February.
Dundalk started with great intent and forced their Kildare opponents to cough two early penalties which Ultan Murphy popped over to settle the nerves.
However, Newbridge didn't panic either and a well-executed line-out move saw them crash over for the first try of the match on 14 minutes, although they failed to convert.
The sides exchanged penalties, but Dundalk were setting the pace and after a number of Newbridge transgressions, Murphy sent over his fourth penalty of the night to make it 12-8.
Virtually straight from the kick-off Dundalk won a lineout which Pual Meegan collected and with a powerful drive and maul forced his way over for Dundalk's first try. With Murphy adding the extras some daylight started to appear between the sides for the first time.
Agian Dundalk secured possession from the kick-off and a flowing attack involving Owen McNally, Ene Fa'atau, MJ McKevitt and Johnny Williams saw Dundalk awarded a scrum close to the Newbridge line, who were reduced to fourteen men as their prop was sin-binned for an offence in the ruck.
Dundalk scrummaged well and Tommy Campbell, Ene Fa'atau and Laurence Steen freed up McNally to sail over for another Dundalk try which Ultan converted to make it 26-8 with just seconds of normal-time remaining.
However, there was still time for Murphy to add another penalty before the break as Dundalk retired with a commanding 29-8 half-time lead.
The first twenty minutes of the second half saw a resurgent Newbridge really put it up to Dundalk with wave after wave of attacking play and they closed the gap to 29-18 with an early penalty followed by a converted try.
Newbridge tails were up and they really took the game to Dundalk, whose pack stood up bravely to the incessant pressure. And it was some good work by the pack that yielded a couple of penalties whcih Campbell kicked to touch and when Newbridge conceded another within range of the target, Murphy took the kick on and duly made it 32-18.
That was probably the score that finally broke Newbridge's resolve and Murphy added another three points soon afterwards.
As the clocked ticked down Robin McGee sold a super dummy and made ground to win a penalty, which the ever alert Campbell kicked crossfield to an unmarked Robbie Williams who touched down for a great inventive score. Ultan Murphy again put the ball between the posts to complete one of the best displays of kicking by a Dundalk player for some time.
The Plate was presented to captain Paul Meegan after the game and there were great scenes of joy with players, mentors and supporters congratulating each other and savouring the moment and no doubt further celebrations will be scheduled so that all can add their congratulations.