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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ashtown Lane side impress en route to the quarter-finals

All-Ireland Jnr Cup at Ashtown Lane: Wicklow RFC 52 Kilfeacle RFC 3

The Wicklow RFC squad who defeated Kilfeacle in the first round of the All Ireland Junior Cup last weekend. Photos:Paul Messitt
The Wicklow RFC squad who defeated Kilfeacle in the first round of the All Ireland Junior Cup last weekend. Photos:Paul Messitt

Wicklow RFC's first team recorded a fantastic win for our senior men in the first round of the All Ireland Cup against Munster side Kilfeacle RFC from Tipperary on Saturday at Ashtown Lane.

This is a knock-out cup competition where the top four junior teams from each province play for the All Ireland Junior Cup. Wicklow earned their place in the draw by finishing fourth in Leinster in last season's league. Leinster's other representatives were Enniscorthy, Dundalk, and reigning champions Ashbourne.

The game was played on a cold, dry and sunny day with a biting, northerly wind that was at Wicklow's backs in the first half.

The teams were welcomed onto the pitch by guard of honour, made up of 50 boys and girls from the WRFC mini section waving Wicklow and Leinster flags.

Wicklow started well and soon had the Munster men under some pressure. After some slick handling by the backs, the in-form Simon Breen powered over to score in the corner. The very difficult conversion was missed but it was first blood to the home side who led 5-0.

Kilfeacle were clearly fired up and tore into Wicklow from the restart but they struggled to make any inroads against a ferocious Wicklow defence. An early sin-binning for a Kilfeacle second row signalled the referee's determination to keep a tight rein on discipline. The remainder of first half was a stop-start and tetchy affair as injury after injury for the Tipperary men wound the clock down.

Wicklow made another breakthrough just before the break, when the excellent Ben Porter broke through to score Wicklow's second try. The conversion from captain Niall Earls made it 12-0.

Wicklow were keen to get another score on board before half-time when they knew they would turn around into a strong wind. Kilfeacle had other ideas and defended strongly, holding onto the ball for phase after phase of multiple pick and drives. Wicklow soaked it up but couldn't get their hands on the ball and the half-time whistle went.

Kilfeacle started with real determination in the second half and attacked deep in Wicklow territory. The home side's defence was in no mood to concede a try and repelled every drive for the line with steely determination and eye watering hits.

Eventually Kilfeacle were rewarded a penalty. The kick was successful and the score was 12-3 with 35 minutes on the clock.

Number 8 Charlie Butterworth took the game by the scruff of the neck in the forty fifth minute when he burst through to score from 30 metres out. Niall Earls added the conversion and Wicklow led 19-3.

Five minutes later, flying winger Dean Leonard broke free, turned on the afterburners and smoked the Kilfeacle defence to score a brilliant try. The conversion from Earls made it 26-3 with half an hour remaining.

A frustrated Kilfeacle threw everything they had at Wicklow for the next 15 minutes but struggled to make any real inroads against a committed defence.

With quarter of an hour left, Pablo Castello Vinolo finished off a brilliant try after some brilliant interplay with Luke Gersekowski. The conversion made it 33-3.

Wicklow were cutting Kilfeacle apart at will at this stage. Eanna Killeen made a real impact from the bench when he scored a fine try to make it 38-3

Not to be outdone, a powerful break from the other replacement prop Jason Byrne put Dean Leonard through for his second try. Earls added the extras to make it 45-3.

Ben Porter rounded off the second half try fest with his second and Wicklow's eighth. The outstanding Earls added his sixth conversion to leave the final score at 52-3 to the home side.

Wicklow have been drawn away to Ballyclare in in the quarter-finals on Saturday, November 10 at 2.30pm at the Cloughan.

This was an outstanding performance by a team that is coming into some real form. The forwards were powerful in attack and ruthless in defence. The backs looked accurate, slick and dangerous. There was real impact from the bench. Wicklow won't get carried away by the score line, as the Kilfeacle heads dropped in the last 20 minutes. They know there will be far sterner tests to come in the next few weeks.

Next Saturday is a massive game for the club with the visit of near neighbours Gorey to Ashtown Lane.

Gorey and Wicklow are locked together in joint second place in the Leinster League one point behind Enniscorthy. Although it is early in the season, the result of this game is likely to have a big impact on which team goes on to challenge for the Leinster League title.

A resurgent Gorey will bring a big crowd to Ashtown Lane. Wicklow will need to be at their very best to come away with a result. Kick off for the seconds is at 1pm with the firsts at the earlier time of 2.30pm.

The following week is the All Ireland Cup quarter-final with a trip to Donnybrook to face Bective on the 4G pitch of Energia Park on November 17. Exciting times!

WRFC 1st XV: Eddie Downes, Jack McKenna, Pablo Castello Vinolo, George Naoupu, Stephen Swan, Fergus Ward, Luke Gersekowski, Charlie Butterworth, Mark Higgins, Niall Earls ,Simon Breen, Alex Porter, Billy Ngawini, Dean Leonard, Ben Porter. Subs: Jay Byrne, Brian Shortt, Eanna Killeen, Neil Dickenson, Mark Nicholson, Denis Higgins.

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