For local rugby lovers, this was a game that needed little in terms of hype or pushing as any time Carlow and Tullow meet, the game sells itself.
John Shirley was on hand with the following report from Sunday’s Leinster League derby.
Carlow v Tullow
For a long time in this Leinster League derby match at the Black Gates on Sunday, it looked as if Tullow’s recent dominance in this fixture was set to continue as the home side bravely protected their 6-0 lead.
However, with ten minutes remaining Carlow got the breakthrough try that they had long threatened. The conversion by fullback Richard Whyte gave the visitors the victory by the narrowest of margins.
The game was played on Tullow’s new artificial pitch in cold still conditions in front of a large crowd.
Five minutes into the game a Carlow penalty clearance failed to find touch in the Tullow ’22. The long-probing return kick was dropped by the Carlow backs, and a Tullow scrum was upgraded to a Tullow penalty because of backchat to the referee. From some distance out on the right, out-half Paul Canavan’s kick went in off the post.
Six minutes later, Carlow conceded another penalty in similar circumstances and Canavan struck again to put the home side six points ahead.
In the recent games between these two combatants, Tullow tended to dominate the scrums and mauls. On Sunday there were glimpses of this Tullow power but mostly, it was the visitors who held both the territory and possession advantage. In particular, Carlow began to steal a lot of the home lineouts. Carlow moved the 6’6″ Wes Shirley to the front of the lineout and this seemed to upset the Tullow throwers.
Carlow backs looked threatening at times but the fast-tackling Tullow line gave the visitors little room to operate.
Late in the first half good work by Richard Whyte and Dan Crotty saw Caomhan Brennan tackled inches short of the Tullow try-line. This was followed by a frenzy of Carlow charges at the line. Tullow’s number eight was yellow carded but the 14 men managed to hold up Carlow in the in-goal area and the siege was lifted.
The second half
For much of the second half, the home side was penned well back towards their 22. This wasn’t helped by Canavan slicing many of his clearances. Twenty minutes in, Tullow’s Ryan O Neill was sin-binned for taking out Richard Whyte in the air. Whyte was wide with the resultant penalty.
This was followed by a spell of Carlow getting an unexpected upper hand in the scrums. James Nolan, Matty O Donovan and John Lyons had been sprung from the subs bench.
Carlow opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty near the Tullow try-line. This time Tullow brought on front row substitute Aaron O’Byrne and actually managed to drive back Carlow and secure an exit penalty. This exchange plus the missed Carlow penalty had the home crowd thinking that it might be their day.
But the Carlow backs started to get more space. Wes Shirley made a lot of ground from line outs and offloaded to his backs. Eventually, the Tullow defence was breached by a jinking run from Caomhan Brennan, Carlow’s most threatening back.
The try was scored about half from the post to the sideline but Richard Whyte put the conversion straight through the posts.
In this Derby match, Tullow rarely threatened the Carlow try-line and in the ten remaining minutes, only a last-ditch tackle stopped Carlow’s Callum Murphy from scoring again the corner.
The 2021-22 Leinster League is now halfway through. The Black Gates win has cemented Carlow in third place. Carlow’s competition has been lessened by the fact that Longford have been penalised five league table points due to alleged referee abuse by a club member.
To date, Tullow have had a mediocre league and lie third from bottom.
On Sunday’s derby game at the Black Gates, both teams lost a player each because of Covid.
Elsewhere, Boyne defeated Cill Dara 26-14, Mullingar were 25-11 winners over Longford while Wicklow racked up six tries against Clondalkin in a 30-5 win at Ashtown Lane.