WICKLOW travelled away to Ashbourne for round two of Division 1B of the Leinster League. The squad were disappointed with their performance the previous week against Tullow and were determined to put in a good shift to get their league campaign back on a positive track.
Wicklow, who played with the wind in the first half, started well and had Ashbourne on the ropes from the outset. Former captain Barry Hurley almost got over in the corner inside the first minute but was held up and penalised for holding onto the ball.
Ashbourne cleared their lines and worked up field. The had a couple of line breaks early on which could have lead to scores but the Wicklow defence scrambled well and thereafter the Wicklow line wasn't really threatened. Wicklow soon settled into the game and had Ashbourne under a fair bit of pressure. They were undone by a series of little errors or the concession of silly penalties which on each occasion let Ashbourne off the hook. After 20 minutes there was still no score.
Eventually a well taken lineout from Captain Noel Green was fed off the top to Dennis Higgins. The ball moved wide and a searing break by Fran Cooney split the Ashbourne defence wide open. Cooney drew the full back superbly and passed to Ken Copeland who scorched over for a brilliantly taken try. The conversion was added by Ben Porter and Wicklow lead 0-7 after 20 minutes.
Wicklow kept the pressure on and five minutes later a well taken penalty from Ben Porter stretched Wicklows lead to 10 points to nil after half an hour. Wicklow kept the pressure on and had further chances before the break which they were unable to capitalise on. On the stroke of halftime another Ben Porter penalty sailed narrowly wide and Wicklow lead 0 - 10 at the break.
Ashbourne got off to a good start in the second half and a penalty brought the scores to 3 - 10. Wicklow responded well and almost got over for a second try. The Ashbourne defence held them out but a penalty from Ben Porter who was having a fine game restored their lead to ten points at 3 - 13 with half an hour remaining.
For much of the second half Wicklow struggled to get any quality possession and any momentum. Although Ashbourne rarely looked threatening they used the wind to pin Wicklow in their own half. Wicklow were disrupted by a couple of injuries and a sin binning of centre Fran Cooney for a high tackle. The penalty from that incident brought the scores to 6 - 13 with 20 minutes to go.
Ashbourne to their credit continued to pressure Wicklow and as full time approached got over in the corner for a try. A brilliant touchline conversion levelled the match at 13 - 13 as injury time approached.
Wicklow had time for another series of attacks but they were unable to breakthrough a resolute Ashbourne defence. Their final attack was broken up by a bad high tackle by one of the Ashbourne backs. The resultant penalty dropped just short and the referee signalled full time.
Wicklow were disappointed not to close out the game and felt they should have put Ashbourne to the sword before half time.
They will however take a lot of positives out of the game with a much improved performance. The backs are starting to click and the pack is capable of matching any side on their day. With another few players still to come back from injury this team is starting to look like one with real potential.
Next week Longford visit Ashtown lane for the third Leinster League game. Longford and Wicklow played twice last season with both teams winning a game apiece. Longford have a powerful pack and excellent defence.
They have won their first two games of the league. With Wicklow starting to show a little form this game could be a real cracker. Kick off for the firsts is at 3pm with the seconds at 1.30pm.
Team: Paddy Jameson, Jason Byrne , Timmy Donovan, Noel Greene, Niall Smullen, Michael Doyle, Barry Hurley, Liam Fenton, Dennis Higgins, Mark Higgins Ronan Hurley, Allen Byrne Jr, Ken Copeland, Fran Cooney, Ben Mangan , Ben Porter. Subs: Eanna Killeen, Simon Norton , Stephen Copeland, Stu Donohoe