Portlaoise 62 Cill Dara 26
North Midlands U-15 Rugby Semi Final
Portlaoise eventually saw off the challenge of Cill Dara in Togher on Saturday to advance to the North Midlands Area final.
Despite a strong cross-field breeze that made for tricky conditions, both sides managed to keep ball in hand to good effect and serve up an entertaining and open contest.
It was the home side who made the quick start as they got on the front foot from the kick-off.
Scrum-half Paul Byrne orchestrated affairs as they stretched the Cill Dara defence with a number of good phases with strong carries from front-row Fionn Mullen, centres Aaron Fitzpatrick and Daniel Whelan, and wing Cormac Paige before No. 8 Eanna Moynihan broke through the cover and powered for the line out on the left for an early 5-0 lead.
Cill Dara responded with a well-taken try of their own to go over in the left corner after a fine counter-attack from a Portlaoise clearance.
In keeping with the see-saw nature of the opening period, the home side scored again through centre Whelan.
In a move off the scrum, Zach Maginness got his hands on the ball and made it into the opposition 22 with support from full-back Fionn Cuddy before Whelan darted between the cover to touch down on the left to put Portlaoise back in front 12-5 after the extras were added.
The home side kept the pressure on and extended the lead after great work by flanker Cormac Drea forced a turnover on the Cill Dara 10m line and Moynihan, once again, did the damage to push the lead out to 17-5.
Cill Dara responded with a period of possession deep in the Portlaoise 22 with the home side front-row combination of Conor Deegan and Shane Foley tackling hard, well-supported by Bill Rigney and Stephen Conroy in the second row.
Cill Dara eventually got their reward when a nice side-step created a gap in home defence and they powered over under the posts. With the extras added, the score line now read 17-12 to Portlaoise.
Credit to Portlaoise, they rose to the challenge and scored two quick-fire tries from Moynihan and Maginness in the final minutes of the half to put some daylight between the sides.
With a conversion added, the score was 31-12 to Portlaoise at the short whistle.
It was Cill Dara that came out of the traps quickest at the start of the second half to score two unanswered tries and get right back into the game.
First, they forced a turnover on the Portlaoise 10 metre line and put a number of phases together to score under the posts and then, from a scrum on half-way, they got reward for a fine attack down the right to again cross the white-was and touch down under the posts. With the extras added, the score was now 31-26 to Portlaoise.
Once again, the home side rose to the challenge with three tries in quick succession.
First flanker Donnchadh Carroll pounced on a breaking ball from a Cill Dara line-out on their own five metre line to touch down in the right corner.
A few minutes later, after some great hands by Shane Foley, Whelan sprinted clear to score under the posts for a converted try, before captain Moynihan scored again with a signature burst of power and pace to leave the score 48-26 to the home side.
Those scores seemed to break the Cill Dara resistance. Kyle Moore, in at scrum-half, kept pace in the attack as Portlaoise sought to keep the scoreboard moving.
Ricky Lyons and Darragh Maher made an impact up front when introduced as did Nicolas Serrano, in at centre, with a number of strong carries. A new back three of Dara Coffey, Cullen Kirwan, and Ethan Kelly settled in well and Cullen added his name to the scoresheet shortly after introduction.
Out-half Matt Cunningham found touch with a well-judged kick for the left corner and, after the home side won the lineout, Kirwan was on hand to break through the cover and score to the right of the posts.
Cunningham added the extras and then had the final word himself when he spotted a gap on the fringes of a ruck and drove through to touch down out on the left. He added the extras to make it 62-26 at the long whistle.
PORTLAOISE: Fionn Cuddy, Zach Maginness, Daniel Whelan, Aaron Fitzpatrick, Cormac Paige, Matt Cunningham, Paul Byrne, Shane Foley, Conor Deegan, Fionn Mullen, Bill Rigney, Stephen Conroy, Cormac Drea, Donnchadh Carroll, Eanna Moynihan.
Replacements: David Allely, Darragh Maher, Ricky Lyons, Cullen Kirwan, Nicolas Serrano, Ethan Kelly, Charlie O’Dwyer, Eoghan Kennedy, Dara Coffey, Joey McGuinness, Declan Iguma, Kyle Moore, Cormac Ging.
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