Wicklow let big lead slip
Rugby: Wicklow 17 - Ashbourne 19
Wicklow First XV were back in action on Saturday afternoon after a couple of weeks off when they took on league leaders Ashbourne in Ashtown Lane.
The game was played in showery conditions with a cross wind that favoured the visitors in the second half.
Ashbourne who are the current All-Ireland Junior Cup holders, travelled to Wicklow sitting on top of the league. Wicklow came into the game after a disappointing loss to Enniscorthy followed by a two week break.
Wicklow started well and had all the possession in the early stages. They were quick to score a fine team try touched down by Shane Farrar after some excellent work by the backs and the forwards. The conversion from Brian Keegan made it 7- 0.
Ten minutes later Wicklow were in again. Simon Breen recovered a ball brilliantly and began the attack. A perfectly weighted chip though by Stephen Duffy was pounced on by winger Ben Porter and the try was scored. The conversion was missed but Wicklow led 12-0. The visitors were slightly shell-shocked. Ashbourne worked their way back into things but they were being outplayed by a fired up Wicklow side who looked more combative up front and more inventive in the backs.
A sin-binning towards the end of the first half had Wicklow under some pressure.
Ashbourne were awarded a penalty close to the Wicklow line and opted for a scrum.
The much-vaunted Ashbourne scrum was shunted back off the ball by the Wicklow pack and the referee awarded the home side a penalty. A huge cheer went up amongst the Wicklow supporters who felt this was a huge moment in the game. Wicklow cleared their lines and soon afterwards the whistle went for half time. Wicklow led 12-0.
John Jenkinson's men started the second half as they had played in the first. They dominated possession and had Ashbourne under pressure. Ten minutes in a penalty kick to the corner and the drive from the resultant lineout saw the try awarded. The conversion was missed but Wicklow led 17-0 and were cruising.
The Ashbourne purple patch was inevitable and it was made easier by Wicklow indiscipline.
A series of yellow cards saw Wicklow reduced to fourteen men and then down to thirteen. The first Ashbourne try came with 25 minutes remaining. The conversion was missed and the score was 17-5.
A second Ashbourne try with ten minutes left was converted and the score was 17-12 with five minutes plus injury time remaining.
With a fourth sin-binning Wicklow were literally hanging on but Ashbourne got over for their third try. The conversion put the Meathmen in front for the first time in the game at 17-19 with five minutes of injury time remaining.
Wicklow were stung into action and threw the absolute kitchen sink at Ashbourne. They drove into the 22 and seemed certain to score when Simon Breen broke through. He was taken down by a desperate last ditch tackle.
Despite the pressure Wicklow were unable to make the break through and the final whistle went.
Wicklow were completely dejected. They would have felt they were the better team on the day but there is no question they should have been able to close out the win.
Their indiscipline at times proved to be very very costly. In fairness much of it came from Ashbourne pressure but Wicklow should have been able to soak it up and trust in their systems.
On a positive note Wicklow played some outstanding rugby for the first hour. The indiscipline should be easily ironed out.
A significant loss like this can cause heads to drop or it can galvanise a team. The talent and potential of this team is without question. The measure of a team is how they react when things are going against them. The trip to Dundalk on Saturday for both firsts and seconds will be a true test of the character of this side.
They have proven it again and again that they have it in spades.
Wicklow: Eanna Killeen, Jack McKenna, Mark Cullen, John Jenkinson, Eoin O'Sullivan, Liam Gaffney, Wes Wojnar, Dennis Higgins, Brian Keegan, Ben Porter, Simon Breen, Shane Farrar, Billy Ngawini, Stephen Duffy, Subs Dean Leonard, Cillian Ballesty, Ben Armstrong, Stephen Swan, Stefan Nixon.