Leinster Club Rugby: Walsh gets Athy over line
A number of exciting finishes highlighted the opening weekend of the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup as 12 first round ties were down for decision and Ashbourne edged Enniscorthy to win the All-Ireland Junior Cup Final on Saturday.
One game, the visit of Athy to New Ross, went to extra-time before the Kildare club prevailed on a 23-13 scoreline, while Kilkenny's efforts to dethrone the holders Wicklow perished on a missed drop goal in injury-time.
Athy fought back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to force an extra 20 minutes before winger David Walsh struck for the decisive score at the start of the additional period when he scored a try under the posts.
When the second round draw was made in Portarlington RFC immediately following the home side's 23-15 defeat to neighbours Portlaoise, the reward for Athy was a visit to North Kildare.
The Kilcock-based club ran out convincing 42-6 winners against Midland Warriors in Moate, pulling away in the second half as the three-division difference in standard eventually showed.
Out-half Niall Earls kicked a penalty goal two minutes from full-time to squeeze Wicklow home by the narrowest of margins 12-11 in Kilkenny after No 8 David O'Connor's try had given the home team the lead some ten minutes earlier.
Wicklow will hope for major improvement ahead of their visit to Cill Dara in the second round as the Kildare town club enjoyed a day off on Sunday, benefiting from a bye.
Dundalk went to Co Carlow and recorded an impressive 37-10 victory that sets up one of the ties of the next round when the Louth club will welcome Enniscorthy to Mill Road for an all-Leinster League Division 1A tie.
Enniscorthy, along with fellow All-Ireland Junior Cup finalists Ashbourne, had been awarded first round byes and the Meath club will also be away on February 19 when they travel to Naas, the Kildare club having won 40-5 at Wexford Wanderers.
Arklow returned to the Towns Cup stage for the first time in a number of years and won 18-7 at Boyne to set up a local derby away to neighbours Gorey who won 27-23 in Mullingar.
The opening shots of this year's tournament were fired in Edenderry on Saturday night but after the conceding three early tries the hosts came up just short in the chase of Clondalkin who won 26-23 to set up a home tie with Longford who beat their visitors Tullamore 23-3.
Congratulations to Ashbourne who won their first ever national tile by beating holders Enniscorthy 22-20 in an action-packed All-Ireland Junior Cup final on Saturday with scrum-half Gavin Kennedy kicking the winning penalty goal five minutes from time in a pulsating contest.