Additional reporting by John Shirley
When we met with some of Carlow RFC at their annual gala in the Woodford Dolmen Hotel on Friday, the focus for the league was firmly fixed on Sunday’s game with Newbridge. There were talks of a bonus point win – it was needed if the promotion hopes were to remain on track – and Carlow certainly delivered.
As it happens, they were the only game to deliver with the remainder of Division 2As fixtures scrapped and likely to be rescheduled for next week.
Newbridge started the game brightly and bullied Carlow in the rucks and mauls, heading into the break with a 9-0 lead courtesy of three penalties from Donal Cashman.
Down by two scores, Carlow needed to acts quick and strike hard if they were to get anything from the game but succumbed to a determined Newbridge after the break.
Four minutes into the half Carlow lost the ball after yet another handling error. The ball was passed to the strong running Newbridge fullback Donal Cashman on half way. He beat several tackles down the sideline and then ran around to score under the posts. The conversion put the home side 16 – 0 ahead.
From the kick-off the Carlow blunders continued. First the ball failed to go 10 metres resulting in a scrum at half way. Newbridge won the scrum and carried the ball up field where Carlow were penalised for lying on the ball. Up steps Cashman again to make it 19-0 to the hosts.
We’re going to reckon that what happened next was inspired by the Patriots in their Superbowl comeback victory over the Falcons last month.
The visitors – Carlow – started winning rucks and making first up tackles. Previously they kicked penalties to the corners only to lose the subsequent lineout.
Carlow’s first try came from a quick tap penalty on the Newbridge 22.
John Lyons made hard yards and when Carlow were stopped on the line, scrum-half Andrew Hanley squeezed over.
Peter Hennessey, who was unsuccessful with two penalty attempts in the first half, converted to make it 19-7 with about 22 minutes left in the game.
Five minutes later, Carlow opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty eight metres from the Newbridge line. The front row of Larry McGrath and brothers Alan and Ross Byrne drove the scrum all the way giving Hanley the simple job of touching down between number 8 Nolan’s feet. The conversion was missed but momentum was with Carlow.
Carlow’s third try followed another tap penalty.
When the visitors now dominant pack were stopped on the Newbridge line, the ball was recycled to James Nolan, collecting at pace to drive over and bring Carlow within 2 points of Newbridge.
Try number arrived with a deft chip kick from Hanley into the corner. Newbridge should have cleared but, with a prop defending, alert Carlow out-half Fionnan Burke ran around him and got the touchdown. Bonus point secured.
The scoring wasn’t done yet, with Burke running in for Carlow’s fifth and final try of the game just three minutes later. Tiring Newbridge players allowed him to collect a bouncing ball behind their pack and couldn’t stop him as he darted in between the posts. The conversion made it 29-19, a 29-point turnaround, with still five minutes left on the clock.
The escape was complete.
The result leaves Carlow level on points with Longford at the top of the table, albeit Longford have a game in hand after today’s cancellations. Carlow and Longford are due to square off in the final game of the season.
Games to be rescheduled are Edenderry v Railway Union, Longford v Cill Dara and Roscrea v Portarlington.
Leinster League Division 2A Table
2,Co Carlow ,13,9,0,4,46
3,Cill Dara ,12,9,0,3,41
4,Railway Union ,12,8,0,4,40