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Mannion punishes Kilkenny to pinch Portarlington title

LAST Sunday, Portarlington secured the Division 2A crown with an exciting 20-17 victory in Kilkenny on the final day of league action.

This week, attention shifts to the Provincial Towns Cup where a quartet of mouth-watering quarter-final ties take place.

Skerries, Cill Dara, Gorey and Guinness all won their respective divisions over the past few weeks, and Portarlington joined their august company as the Co Laois club bounced back to Division 1B following last season's relegation.

On Sunday, they were made to fight all the way, as Kilkenny came within three minutes of causing an upset before prolific winger Ronan Mannion applied the finishing touches to a superb effort from their own 22.

Out-half Massey Tuhakaraina had scored an early first-half try as the visitors led 13-7 at the break, but the hosts forged their way in front via their bigger pack before Mannion's late intervention.

Skipper Ross Doyle accepted the Division 2A Cup from Alfie Acheson of the Leinster Branch immediately after the game, to add to the Hosie Cup Portarlington have already won.

Other issues that were decided on Sunday included Wicklow advancing to the Division 1A/1B promotion/relegation playoff as Division 1B runners up, despite a 44-29 loss in Longford, and Tullow finishing seventh in the same division after their 21-14 defeat in Ashbourne, to qualify for the Division 1B/2A playoff against Roscrea, who filled the second spot in Division 2A after losing 23-13 in Malahide.

Hosts Mullingar survived a late Railway Union onslaught to prevail 17-16 in an exciting finale to the race for the runners-up spot in Division 2B, and they now progress to a playoff with North Kildare on Sunday week.

The Provincial Towns Cup has been as exciting as ever this season and is wide open, with some fancied sides failing to make it past the opening two rounds.

On Sunday, Division 1A giants Enniscorthy meet Skerries in Ross Road. Division 1B champions Cill Dara play Ashbourne at home. And Newbridge will be expected to deal with the threat of Kilkenny.

Last but by no means least is the clash between Tullow and Roscrea, who meet in a promotion/relegation playoff a week later. The draw for the semi-finals will be held in Beechpark at 5.15pm, following the Cill Dara v Ashbourne tie.