Gorey RFC 14 Wicklow RFC 17
Wicklow RFC's Senior men took on a tough Gorey RFC side in the penultimate Leinster League game in Gorey on Saturday afternoon.
Gorey and Wicklow lie in second and third place respectively with Enniscorthy having already won the league title. Consequently the game was a bit of a dead rubber with not a huge amount at stake on paper.
The two sides produced a tough hard hitting encounter that belied the fact that there wasn't much to play for apart from bragging rights, pride and the importance of keeping up momentum ahead of the huge Provincial Towns Cup quarter-finals which both sides face on St Patricks Day.
The game was played in driving rain and a strong wind which favoured the home side in the first half.
Wicklow started much the livelier and dominated the early proceedings. They kept the ball in hand and frustrated the Wexford men by dominating possession and field position.
Wicklow were the first to score when George Naoupu powered over for an unconverted try on the 20-minute mark.
Hooker Mark Nicholson scored a fine team try on the half hour to stretch Wicklow's lead to 0-10.
Gorey came back into things and had their own purple patch as half time approached. A gutsy defensive effort by Wicklow for the last five minutes kept Gorey out and Wicklow turned around with the wind at their backs with a ten-nil lead.
Things got better early in the second half when George Naoupu capitalised on an error in the Gorey rear guard and pounced on the ball to score his second and Wicklow third try. The conversion from Niall Earls made it 0-17 and with a gale at their backs Wicklow looked to be firmly in the driving seat.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Gorey worked their way upfield and scored a well deserved try after a series of pick and drives. The try was converted, and it was 7-17. Ten minutes later Gorey added a second converted try and made it 14-17 with 15 minutes remaining.
All the momentum was with the home side now as an injury hit Wicklow side struggled to hold onto their lead.
To their credit they steadied the ship in the last ten minutes and finished the game on the attack in the Gorey 22. The final whistle went and Wicklow had won. 14-17. A very young Wicklow second team produced a good performance but went down fighting against a tough Gorey side.
Wicklow will have been pleased with the win and to have avenged their defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the year.
The first half performance was up there with the best they have produced all season.
The result, with one game remaining confirms that Wicklow will finish in the top three in Leinster Junior Rugby this season. The highest ever finish by the club.
The game against Bective on Saturday will round off the league campaign and then the clubs attention will turn to the Provincial Towns Cup quarter-final against Dundalk RFC on St Patricks Day.
Notably, 18-year-old Sam Porter came off the bench in the second half to join his brothers Ben and Alex on the pitch for the first XV.
The boys' grandfather, Tom Porter, was a past President and stalwart of the club for many years.
Their dad Simon played for many years and has refereed for the club with distinction.
A community club like Wicklow is built around families like the Porters.
Next Saturday sees both firsts and seconds take on Bective in the final round of the Leinster League. Kick offs at 1.30pm and 3pm.
Wicklow 1st XV: Eanna Killeen, Jack McKenna, Neil Dickenson, , John Jenkinson, George Naoupu, Liam Gaffney, Mark Nicholson, Wes Wojnar, Mark Higgins, Niall Earls, Shane Farrar, Adam Cullen ,Simon Breen, Alex Porter, Ben Porter. Subs Eddie Downes, Pablo Castello Vinolo, Brian Shortt Sam Porter Ben Armstrong.
Wicklows 2nd XV: Seamus O'Brien, Pablo Castello Vinolo, Mark Cullen, Andy O'Boyle, Sam Porter, , David Henderson, Dylan Byrne, Brian Shortt, Shane Byrne, Ben Armstrong, Ben Mangan, Neil Kearney Cian Reynolds, Conor Vize, Alex Porter, Stephen Swann, Matthew Byrne, Fergus Ward.