Leinster League Division 2A
North Kildare 15
By Denis J. Croke
IT may have been too late to stave off relegation, but Portlaoise 1st XV finished their season on a high when recording the only win in this year’s Leinster League campaign. In a cracking game of rugby Portlaoise continued to show some of the improvements witnessed in recent weeks, improvements on which they can build on next season.
Things did not look good for the home side when North Kildare took an early lead from a try. Portlaoise were applying all the pressure but time and time again they were to lose out close to the line through a combination of stern North Kildare defending and poor luck.
However, that changed right on the pip of half time. Having been camped inside the North Kildare 22 for a period they eventually got the score they so deserved when hooker Craig Telford crashed over from a rolling maul to leave sides locked together on 5-5 at the break.
North Kildare, who were four places above Portlaoise in the league table were not going to lie and hit back straight after the restart with a penalty.
Portlaoise were now soaking up a lot of pressure but then came the break they were looking for. A long clearing kick from Mark Mullaly was fumbled by the North Kildare full back. Ronan Donlon was following up, gathered the ball made ground before popping a pass to Matthew Cremin who raced in for the try. Mullally added the extras to put Portlaoise four points ahead.
The home side were unlucky not to have another try when Josh Akanji made a great break from inside his own half but was denied by a magnificent covering tackle five metres short of the line.
A 46th minute penalty from Mullally gave Portlaoise a six point cushion, but minutes later the sdies were locked together on 18 points apiece after North Kildare struck for a converted try.
Now the pressure was really on but Portlaoise looked to be lasting the better. Their forwards were totally on top and it was this that told in the end. Portlaoise were now camped deep in North Kildare territory where the visitors were penalised time and again for scrum infringements which eventually resulted in one of their players being sin-binned.
But still Portlaoise could not get the break they wanted. However, the sustained pressure told when Jack Reddin picked out Telford with a long pass and he crashed over in the corner.
With five minutes remaining Portlaoise did not relax and despite North Kildare threatening it was the home side who got the last score when Mullally converted a penalty.
The looks on the players faces after this game showed just how much it meant to them to end their season with a win.
PORTLAOISE: Tommy Martin; Matthew Cremin, Kade Rennie, Josh Akanji, Glen Connolly; Mark Mullally, Matthew Coonan; Paddy Coss, Craig Telford, Harry Lalor; Ronan Donlon; Mark Sherlock; Dara Phelan, Robin Foot, Ross Cooper.
Replacements: Jason Carter, Lorcan Byrne, Jack Reddin, Jack Duffin