Under-17 final awaits
Gorey 29 Wanderers 14
The Gorey Under-17s travelled to Enniscorthy to face Wexford in the semi-final of the Leinster Culliton Cup. This fixture came just one week after Gorey drew with Wicklow in the Leinster Premier league final, a match that will be replayed on Easter Monday.
Gorey reached this semi-final following emphatic wins over strong opposition in the form of Navan (36-0), Tullow (20-10) and Ardee (70-0), while Wexford had two wins against Wicklow (28-21) and Ashbourne (37-17), having received a bye in round one.
Both teams fielded full-strength squads on a clear, sunny day with just a little wind, and both clubs attracted a sizeable band of travelling supporters.
Things were fairly even for the opening phases, as each team sized up the other, with Gorey playing mostly in Wexford's half of the pitch.
Gorey temporarily lost their prop, Jack Ryan, after 15 minutes as he went over on his ankle.
Gorey out-half Mark Kehoe spread the ball well and stretched Wexford's defensive line, and Gorey worked their way towards the try line before being awarded a line-out, just outside the 22-metre line.
The ball was gathered well by Gorey second-row Tadhg O'Neill, who made a burst for the line before being stopped just inches short. The referee put out his arm to indicate he was now playing a penalty advantage to Gorey, but it wasn't needed, as captain Robert Murphy picked up the ball off the back of the ruck and pounced over for the first score (5-0).
Wexford's powerful forwards tried to get a grip and put Gorey under pressure, but the pack reacted well, with outstanding tackles going in from Robert Murphy, Dylan Sawyer and Alex Rothwell.
The back line were in fine form too and were proving too much of a handful for the south-east neighbours. It wasn't long before Gorey once again were working their way towards the try line.
The forwards picked and went phase by phase inexorably in the direction of the try line, before the ball was eventually picked up by second-centre Seán Wafer who side-stepped two defenders on his way to scoring Gorey's second try with 19 minutes gone. Oisín Fortune kicked well to convert the score (12-0).
Wexford weren't about to roll over and they made things very difficult for Gorey, forcing a number of penalties for holding-on. From one of these penalties they decided to run, rather than kick for points, and that got them on the scoreboard with a fine try and conversion (12-7).
Suddenly Gorey found themselves on the back foot having to defend, as Wexford piled attack after attack on the defence. However, a moment of magic from Gorey winger Henry Kennedy conjured up the next score, as he picked up a loose ball just inside the Wexford half and made a remarkable run, seemingly about to be stopped several times.
He confounded spectators though as he continued all the way to the line for Gorey's third try with just a couple of minutes remaining in the half (17-7).
It looked as if Gorey were about to take a comfortable lead into the half-time break, but straight from the kick-off Wexford's strong centre picked up the ball and seemed determined to remedy matters single-handedly.
He stepped over several attempted tackles by Gorey players to respond with a quick try, even having the audacity to continue stepping players in the in-goal area to make the conversion easier for his kicker (17-14).
The second-half began at a frantic pace, with both teams realising that the next score was vital. However, the frenetic tempo may have affected Wexford's discipline, as they picked up a number of yellow cards in quick succession for both physical and verbal infractions.
This allowed Gorey to take advantage, as their scrum now began to dominate. From one of these scrums newly-introduced replacement centre Mark Boyle picked up the ball and make great space before releasing his central partner Seán Wafer for a strong finish and his second try directly under the posts (24-14).
Wexford gallantly tried to pull the game back, but Gorey were not going to relinquish such a lead at this stage and they defended very well; one tackle in particular by winger Ryan Kinsella giving rise to gasps from the thronged supporters.
Wexford's desperate efforts to get back into the game inevitably left gaps in their defence, and Seán Wafer once again took advantage, but on this occasion he fed the ball out to the oncoming full-back Oisín Fortune who closed the game out with just minutes on the clock with a fine try (29-14).
The large contingent of supporters gave both teams a well-deserved ovation at the end of this thoroughly entertaining game from two very strong and well-drilled outfits.
Gorey will now face Mullingar in the final on April 23, as the midlanders saw off the challenge from North Kildare in their semi-final.
Gorey: Jack Ryan, Toby Falconer, Dylan Sawyer, Joe Butler, Tadhg O'Neill, Frank Kavanagh, Alex Rothwell, Robert Murphy, Cillian Tomkins, Mark Kehoe, Henry Kennedy, Greg Bolger, Seán Wafer, Flynn Donnelly, Oisín Fortune. Replacements: Ryan Gibney, Kyle Donnelly, Niall Kenny, Cian Kenny, Adam Byrne, Mark Doyle, Mark Boyle, Ryan Kinsella.