Portlaoise 43 Skerries 24
Leinster Rugby U-18 Premier League
Ewan McCann and Ivan Okonkwo stood up in an anxious second half to put the nail in the coffin of a never-say-die Skerries team who will be disappointed to not get out of this game with at least a losing bonus point.
The score line is deceiving as there was no way there was a 19 point difference between these teams as the game see-sawed from end to end with open, attractive and top speed rugby.
Portlaoise got the home crowd applauding early in the first half as a clever kick through from Ciaran Culleton was followed up by Ivan Okonkwo who was delighted to get the scoreboard ticking over and Mathew Coonan started a top class kicking display from the tee.
Indiscipline from Skerries after the try gave Portlaoise a penalty and they penalised the Dublin defence with seven more points when the ever improving prop Killian McHugh finished of an amazing keep the ball alive rugby move from the home team. 14-0 up and Skerries had to up their game.
The visitors got more physical up front and started to win the 50-50 contests but it was the speed of the Skerries backs that impressed the most as they got their team back in the game with a try to leave Portlaoise leading 14-5 at half time.
The second half was just an amazing game to watch as both teams played some fantastic open rugby. And it was an unbelievable try from Ewan McCann who, James Lowe like, twisted his body and with pure bravery and determination got the ball touched down at the corner flag. Inspirational try and Coonan added the conversion from an impossible angle.
But Portlaoise rested on their laurels and complacency set in as Skerries had their own purple patch which took them into the lead for the first time of the game.
The visitors were on cloud nine but this time it was the Portlaoise lads who came out fighting. After a try from Dara Phelan, and with the game in the balance, it was the dancing feet of Ivan Okonkwo who, after robbing a Skerries line out on the half way line, waltzed his way through their defence to get that all important game winning try.
Ciaran Culleton put the icing on the cake and finished the game the way he started but this time with a try of his own and it was that man Coonan who couldn’t miss from the tee converted to leave the final score to 43-24 to Portlaoise.
There have been unbelievably tight games in this Premier League and Portlaoise are top the table with three games remaining. Next game is away to Barnhall
PORTLAOISE RFC ACADEMY SQUAD: Ciaran Culleton, Mathew Coonan, Stephen Delaney, Dara Phelan, Cian Coffey, Brian Barry, James Kidd, Billy Kerry, Adam Glynn, Cathal Kenny, Killian O’Keeffe, Conor Raggett, Daniel Fingleton, Dylan Kelly, Evan Bergin, Evan Caffrey, Ivan Okonkwo, Jake Andrews, Jake Culbert, Jake Darcy, Jamie Baldwin, Paddy Reddin, PJ Larkin, Ross Bradley, Killian McHugh, Sean Peters, Nathan Duffy, David Duggan, Daniel Thornton, Andrew Schiller, Nathan Flanagan, Killian Bowe, Eoin Rooney, Darragh Townsend, Aran Coiley, Euan McCann, Callum Carroll, Aaron Kingston, Conor Stack, Ryan Gilligan, Jake Byrne, Robert Keane, Dylan Browne, Sean Dunne, Ryan McEvoy, Rory Costigan, Josh Grogan, Sam Browne, Robbie Murtagh.
Physio: Mick Comer
Coaches: Roy Glynn, Mark Phelan, Owen Coonan, Paddy Bergin, Pat Duggan, Richie Whelan
Portlaoise RFC 12 Navan RFC 13
Leinster Rugby U-15 Boys Cup
Portlaoise U-15s welcomed Navan to Togher on a breezy and busy Saturday for the first round of the Leinster cup.
Two evenly-matched teams played out a tough and tense contest with the visitors withstanding a strong Portlaoise finish to take the spoils.
Navan got the game underway and were on the front foot from the off with a sustained period of territory and possession.
They carried strongly and protected the ball very well despite the best effort of Joey McGuinness, Conor Deegan and Fionn Mullen in the front row.
The pressure eventually told and Portlaoise were penalised at the breakdown on their own 22 and Navan out-half, Lorcan Craik, made no mistake to put the visitors ahead 3-0 in the early stages.
Playing into a cross-field breeze, Portlaoise worked hard to try and gain some field position with captain, Eanna Moynihan, leading the charge, ably-supported by Bill Rigney and Cormac Drea in the second row.
However, the Navan defence stood solid and they continued to dominate the exchanges as the half wore on. They were awarded another penalty just outside the Portlaoise 22 which Craik converted to extend the lead to 6-0.
As the game ticked towards half-time, Portlaoise finally made some inroads into the Navan half with great work in midfield by centres Aaron Fitzpatrick and Daniel Whelan as scrum-half Paul Byrne tried to inject some urgency into the attack.
However, the ball was turned over and Navan cleared their lines to the safety of touch deep in the Portlaoise 22.
They continued to pile on the pressure from the resultant lineout but the home side kept their try line in tact until half-time with some great defence from Fionn Mullen, Shane Foley, and Donnchadh Carroll.
Credit to the home side, they took the game to the opposition in the early stages of the second half with some great phases of play as the back-line finally started to click into gear.
Navan were defending resolutely but Portlaoise finally crossed the white wash when a great move was well-finished by wing Fionn Cuddy to the left of the posts and out-half Matt Cunningham added the extras to give Portlaoise a 7-6 lead.
In a sign of the even nature of the contest, the next period was played out in the middle third as both sides worked hard to break the gain line.
Mark Ging, who came in to the second row at the break and Stephen Conroy, now in at hooker for the home side, were in the thick of the action while full-back, Eoghan Kennedy, was a safe pair of hands under Navan’s relieving kicks.
Kyle Moore, in at scrum-half, kept the attack on the move with Zach Maginness and Moynihan doing their level best to find a chink in the Navan armour.
However, Navan withstood the pressure and, from a penalty on the Portlaoise 22, some strong carries and a fine off-load saw Rhian Faherty crash over in the left corner. Craik added the extras with a fine kick to extend the lead to 13-7.
Portlaoise responded with some great rugby as they put phase after phase together with Carroll, Fitzpatrick, and Whelan all carrying strongly.
The pressure eventually paid dividends as wing Cormac Paige finished off a fine move in style to touch down in the right corner.
The comeback wasn’t to be, however, as the conversion drifted left of the posts to leave it 13-12 to Navan at the final whistle.
PORTLAOISE: Eoghan Kennedy, Fionn Cuddy, Daniel Whelan, Aaron Fitzpatrick, Cormac Paige, Matt Cunningham, Paul Byrne, Joey McGuinness, Conor Deegan, Fionn Mullen, Cormac Drea, Bill Rigney, Zach Maginness, Donnchadh Carroll, Eanna Moynihan (c).
Replacements: Ricky Lyons, Darragh Maher, Cormac Drea, Declan Iguma, Ethan Kelly, David Allely, Shane Foley, Dara Coffey, Stephen Conroy, Charlie O’Dwyer, Cormac Paige, Cullen Kirwan, Kyle Moore, Dan Murrell, Mark Ging
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