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Towns Cup Quarter Final

Enniscorthy 1st XV 16 Wicklow 1st XV 22 (AET)
Provincial Towns Cup Quarter Final.

Wicklows 1st XV came from behind to beat a stunned Enniscorthy side in a dramatic game at Ross Road on Sunday afternoon. Having lost to Wicklow in the Towns cup decider last May and again in the South East final in September, Enniscorthy were in no mood to lose three in a row against their less vaunted opponents. Wicklow, on this occasion, traveled to Wexford without the element of surprise and knowing that they would have to produce another top-drawer performance to have any chance against the runners up in Div 1A.


The game was played on a beautiful, dry and sunny day, on a firm pitch and with a strong breeze that favoured the away side in the first half. A large crowd of supporters made the trip from Wicklow to cheer the team on. The travelling support was swelled by a bus with the St Pats GAA senior team and supporters who made their way to Enniscorthy following their game earlier in the day.

Wicklow, with the wind at their backs, started well and had the hosts pinned in their half for much of the opening period. They forced the concession of an early penalty, but the kick from captain Niall Earls was narrowly off target.

Earls soon had a chance to make amends when he slotted his second attempt on the ten-minute mark to give Wicklow the early lead at 0 – 3. Wicklow’s continued pressure had Enniscorthy at sixes and sevens and Earls punished them with another good strike on 17 minutes to make it 0 – 6.

The first time Enniscorthy broke out of their half, they showed how dangerous they could be with a slick move that saw their winger go in unopposed beneath the Wicklow posts. The simple conversion from Ivan Poole made it 7- 6 to the home side after twenty-six minutes.

From the kick off, Eoin O’Sullivan brilliantly gathered the ball. Michael Doyle surged into the 22 and the referee penalised Enniscorthy for not rolling away. Niall Earls made no mistake and Wicklow were back in front at 7 – 9.

Wicklow continued to dominate proceedings in terms of posession and field position. After yet another Enniscorthy infringement the referee opted for a yellow card and sent a man to the bin for “persistently killing the ball”. Wicklow decided to kick for the corner but the Slaneysiders won the resultant line-out and cleared up field. Shortly afterwards the whistle went for half time. 
Wicklow were disappointed to turn around into the wind with a narrow 7- 9 lead given that they had the lion’s share of possession and territory in the first half.

Enniscorthy, buoyed by the wind at their backs, started well in the second period. Two needless Wicklow penalties gave the home side a foot hold in the 22. Some outstanding defence by the visitors, saw them repel a series of attacks and clear their lines.
Wicklow had their opportunities too.

Winger Dean Leonard looked like he had broken clear, only to be called back for a foot grazing the touchline. Niall Earls intercepted a loose Enniscorthy pass and sprinted clear from his own ten-yard line. He was hauled down five metres from the try line and the ball was lost forward. Enniscorthy had thwarted another good chance but Wicklow still led by 7 – 9 with twenty minutes remaining.

Enniscorthy upped the pace and hit their purple patch as a tiring Wicklow seemed to flag. A monster penalty from experienced out half Ivan Poole put the home side back in front at 10 – 9. with fifteen minutes left. Three minutes later they had extended their lead with a drop goal from Poole to make it 13 – 9.

With seven minutes remaining, another drop goal, this time from the excellent Killian Lett, put the home side 16 – 9 up. Wicklow's grip on the venerable trophy was loosening fast.

The large crowd of Enniscorthy supporters must have felt they were home and dry and who could blame them?Wicklow were out on their feet, seven points down, facing into a strong wind, away from home against the second ranked team in Leinster Junior rugby. Very few people present felt that Niall Earls men could drag themselves back into the game, but remarkably that is exactly what they did.

Slowly but surely Wicklow beat their way into Enniscorthy territory. Hanging onto the ball for dear life they battered their way closer and closer to the line as injury time wore on. Phase after phase of patient and ruthless attacks saw them move inexorably towards their goal.

They needed a converted try and they knew they needed to score close to the posts. Play went from the left wing to the right wing and back again. Eventually after twenty plus phases, Shane Farrar crashed over to score! The Wicklow crowd erupted!

Niall Earls stepped up knowing he needed the conversion to keep his side in the famous competition. He slotted the pressure kick and pumped his fist as the ball sailed over the bar. Wicklow were still alive and the game was going into extra time at 16 – 16!

Wicklow were a different side in extra time. Young Paddy Cullen, who had replaced Farrar in the centre scythed through the Enniscorthy defence and looked certain to score . His brilliant forty metre break was brought to a shuddering halt by a high tackle by full back Ross Barbour. The referee awarded Wicklow the penalty and then surprised everyone by reaching for the red card.

Enniscorthy were shell shocked and down to fourteen men as Earls put Wicklow back in front 16 – 19. Two minutes later a speculative Stephen Duffy drop kick from 40 metres curled in on the wind and dropped over the bar. Wicklow led 16 – 22 at half time in extra time.

Enniscorthy, to their credit, threw the absolute kitchen sink at Wicklow in the second half but the visitors rock solid defence forced the turnover time and time again.

With a last desperate throw of the dice, as time ran out, the Wexford men opted for a risky cross kick. The winger took the ball at full tilt and seemed certain to score beneath the posts. A brilliant last ditch tap tackle from replacement winger Alan Byrne, caused him to trip, then stumble and crash to the ground. The referee awarded a scrum to Wicklow and the ball was cleared to touch. The final whistle went and both teams (and most of the supporters) collapsed on the ground utterly exhausted!

What a game it had been! Two fantastic teams had given it everything. Literally it could have gone either way in a game of inches. Wicklow had won, again, having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, again. This was an incredibly brave performance from a team that has a never say die spirit that simply has to be seen to be believed.

The draw took place in the clubhouse directly after the game and Wicklow were drawn to face Skerries in the semi-final. The game will be played on Sunday April second in Cill Dara at 3pm.

Wicklow are going to need as much support as possible. The club are running a bus to Cill Dara leaving at 1pm and returning shortly after the game on Sunday evening. If you are interested text Stephen Clarke on 087 2051659. €10 for adults and €5 for kids.

Squad: Eanna Kileen, Jack McKenna, Shane Byrne, Fergal Walsh, Barry Hurley,Eoin O’Sullivan, Andy Doyle, Mikey Doyle, , Denis Higgins, Niall Earls, Ben Armstrong, Shane Farrar, Ben Porter, Ben Armstrong, Stephen Duffy, Ally Byrne, Timmy Donovan, Paddy Cullen, Wes Wojnar, Seamus O'Brien, James Stafford.

 

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