Lalor Cup Final
Naas RFC 14
Portarlington RFC 5
By Denis J. Croke
IT has been a very tough few years for Portarlington RFC but this season they seem to be turning things around. Perhaps relegation to Division 3 of the Leinster League was a blessing in disguise.
Playing at the lower end of the league has afforded the club the opportunity to regroup and not face a beating week in week out which can be very demoralising. This year they have won six of their league games and lie in second place, five points behind league leaders Roscrea but with a game in hand.
They may have gone down to Naas in this Lalor Cup final played in Cill Dara but they showed enough to suggest they are on the way back. To even have made the final was an accomplishment in itself and they did not disgrace themselves by any means or manner.
Certainly Naas were the more accomplished side but that was not always enough against a very spirited Portarlington outfit. The battled form the first minute to the last and were very unlucky not to have added to their tally in the dying seconds of the game.
Playing with the aid of the gale force diagonal wind the Kildare team virtually owed the ball, Portarlington just could not get their hands on it. Early on Naas played at pace and tried to stretch the Portarlington defence but with little effect.
The vast majority of this period was played inside the Portarlington 22 but Naas just could not breach the Portarlington cover. It has to be said Naas played into Portarlington’s hands to a degree. When camped on the line they continued to look for a gap close to the ruck, not stretching the Portarlington defence which was very light out wide
The breakthrough came on the half hour mark from a scrum in the middle of the field when Naas broke left and full back Thomas Dore went over in the corner. Paddy Brickall added the conversion to give his side a seven point cushion.
Naas now tried to turn the screw but with little effect against a stern Portarlington defence. In fact it was Portarlington who finished the half the stronger moving the ball wide and finding a few gaps but without scoring.
The Naas coaching team would not have been happy with a seven point lead after dominating so much and they knew the faced a difficult task on the change over.
Naas doubled the margin midway through the half but with a little help from Portarlington. The Laois club won a penalty on their own 22 and ran it. From the ensuing maul the ball was recycled but kicked dead resulting in a Naas scrum close to the half way line which they won, ran left and scored in the corner. When the conversion was added they had a 14 point lead.
Credit to Portarlington they never gave up the chase. They piled on the pressure and were rewarded in the 46th minute when Fintan Murphy crashed over for a try.
Naas were now worried and realised they were in for a fight as Portarlington continued to pile forward.
Even when the game was out of their reach as they went into injury time Portarlington kept battling. They forced Naas back into defending their line and were desperately unlucky not to have got another try 10 minutes into injury time but knocked on going over the line.
Portarlington will have been desperately disappointed to have lost but should take a lot of positives out of this game. They can look forward with positivity to the rest of their league campaign.
NAAS: Thomas Dore; Chris McCarthy, Oisin Tyrrell, Andy Kelly, Matt Burke; Paddy Brickall, Gavin Murphy; Bryan Gallagher, Sean Nolan, Eoin Tierney; Cormac Sheridan, John Waters; Barry O’Halloran, Jared Owens, Gearoid Comber.
PORTARLINGTON: Andrew Evans; Anavil Storey, Stephen Mulhall, Ross Doyle, Simon Doggett; Kieran Hyland, Paul Mannion; Aaron Maher, Fintan Murphy, Conor Houlihan; Keelan Hunt, Owen McDonnell; Sean Mooney, Stephen Oakley, Mark Petru.
Replacements: Darren O’Connor, Reece Cuddihy