Tullow reign supreme in Carlow Towns Plate derby
In last Saturday's Carlow county rugby final, or to give it its proper title, the Bank of Ireland Leinster Towns Plate match, Tullow beat Carlow at Oakpark by 34-6.
But even Tullow supporters accepted that the scoreline did not reflect the quality of the game and the effort put in by the young Carlow team.
In a sporting game played at a hectic pace by two very committed sides, Tullow exerted the early pressure.
Their No 8 Stephen Smyth with his driving breaks, was doing to Carlow what England's Billy Vunipola did to Ireland recently in Twickenham.
This pressure resulted in two successful penalties scored by No 10 William Canavan who was returning after injury.
But later in the first half Carlow, doing well in scrums and lineouts, gained the territorial advantage. Wes Shirley, Simon Walshe, James Nolan and Larry McGrath made strong runs but were stopped by a well-drilled Tullow defence.
However, Carlow pressed their opponents into conceding three kickable penalties, two of which were converted by full-back Peter Hennessey.
By half-time there was nothing between them at 6-6 and the Oakpark crowd sniffed an upset might be in the air.
For the first 18 minutes of the second half the match was still evenly balanced but then came the defining moment.
Carlow's Thomas Ratahi, who was just on the field, was sin-binned for an over-zealous tackle and with that Tullow pounced.
In the next five minutes Tullow ran in three converted tries and the game was over as a contest.
First the marauding Smyth picked the ball from the back of the scrum and drove through to score under the posts.
From the restart, the ball was caught by Tullow forwards who transferred to William Cas O Brien who again broke tackles and Carlow hearts as he went on a mazy 40-metre run.
He passed to right wing Paul Stephenson who dotted under the post for the second try.
Within four minutes Scott Caldbeck got a third Tullow try following a break down the left touch line by the centre Jed Pratt.
Following this blitz Carlow to their credit didn't give up but again fought back and pressurised the Tullow line.
Carlow won a series of penalties in the Tullow 22 but opted not to kick for the posts. Now it was Tullow's turn to suffer sin bins as captain Ato Bloomfield and sub prop Louis Kilcoyne were yellow-carded in the final ten minutes.
Against the 13 men it looked as if Carlow must score however Nolan and Mark Furey were stopped inches short but then a Carlow pass was intercepted on his own line by Tullow centre Richard Nicholls who ran the length of the field to score Tullow's fourth try, again under the posts.
Canavan converted and the game ended.
Overall, Tullow were stronger in defence. Potential Carlow threats such as Nolan, Shirley and Walshe were snuffed out while on the other hand Tullow's game-breakers such as Smyth, O'Brien, Scott Caldbeck and Frank Murphy made yardage too often for Carlow comfort.
Carlow - Peter Hennessey; Jeff McDermott, Harry Hennessey, Simon Walshe, Clive Atkinson; Fionnan Burke, John Whyte; Ross Byrne, Conal Slater, Alan Byrne, Mark Furey, Wes Shirley capt, Niall Bermingham, James Nolan, Chris Challe. Subs used: Larry McGrath, Thomas Ratahi, John Farrell, John Lyons, Ross Elmes, Mark Elmes.
Tullow - William Cas O Brien; Paul Stephenson, Jed Pratt, Ato Bloomfield capt, Ryan O Neill; William Canavan, Ross Hynes; Scott Caldbeck, Sam Corrigan, Tom Cashin, Frank Murphy, Joe Waters, William Hollow O Brien, Kyle Handbidge, Stephen Smyth. Subs used: Louis Kilcoyne, John Fitzgerald, John Roche, John Handbidge, Richard Nicholls.