Carlow won their opening game in the 2021- 2022 Division 1A Leinster Rugby League but only just.
Cill Dara, the visitors to Oakpark on Sunday, scored 4 tries to Carlow’s two, but their poor place kicking, and indiscipline, allowed Carlow to stay in the game and come away with a 24 to 22 point victory.
The game was only 2 minutes gone when a poor Carlow kick was fielded by Cill Dara second-row Snell. He passed to outhalf Gray who in turn put centre Fionn Heffernan in for a try. Gray missed the conversion.
Carlow responded well to this setback and came upfield for two Richard Whyte penalties in the 8th and 15th minutes to go 6 – 5 ahead. However in the lead up to the second penalty, Carlow lost their captain and best player Ross Elmes to what is feared could be a long term injury.
The loss of their captain seemed to unsettle Carlow and Cill Dara got through for softish tries by Gray (21st min ) and centre Logan Nicholson (25th min). Gray missed the simple conversions which meant Carlow trailed 15 – 6 but it could have been worse.
Just before half time, this gap was closed to two points. In a lineout close to their own line a wayward Cill Dara throw was snapped up at the back by Carlow’s Paddy Mackey who barged his way over for the touchdown. Again Richard Whyte was dead on with the out wide conversion.
In the second half, Carlow had the benefit of the breeze and this helped them to gain more game control. Cill Dara conceded a number of penalties which culminated in a yellow card for winger Luke O Toole. 15 minutes into the half, a poor Cill Dara clearance missed touch and was fielded by Liam Slater. He made ground and passed to Johnny Crossley who squeezed through the smallest of gaps to score in the corner.
The conversion was missed but the home side was now leading 18 – 15. However, almost immediately Cill Dara was back in front. Winger Adam Meehan ran a great line and sliced through the Carlow backs to score near the posts. This time Cill Dara’s Logan Nicholsan got the conversion to put the visitors ahead 22 – 18.
Another Carlow penalty by Liam Slater closed the gap to a single point. This was followed by a nervous period during which Cill Dara’s Nicholsan was narrowly wide with an attempted three pointer.
Finally, with only minutes remaining, Carlow was awarded a penalty about forty metres out. Up stepped Richard Whyte, now back on the field, and split the posts to give his team a hard-fought but important win.
For this opening match, Carlow welcomed back scrumhalf Isaac Daly. Dan Crotty former under 18 star looked well within his depth as did Caomhan Brennan off the subs bench. Paddy Mackey who hails from Australia looks promising in a team that has been training well.
Carlow also has had good turnouts for the J2 team training but regrettably, Cill Dara pulled out of the J2 fixture scheduled for Oakpark on Sunday.
Next week the Carlow J1 and J2 sides are to travel to Mullingar.
Richard Whyte, Johnny Crossley, Dan Crotty, Liam Slater, Sam Cullen, John Whyte, Isaac Daly, Larry McGrath, Conal Slater, Ross Byrne, Wes Shirley, John Lyons, Evan Gordon, Paddy Mackey, Ross Elmes Capt
Subs: John Farrell, Alan Byrne, Owen Edgehill, Cormac Murray, Caomhan Brennan
Rory Conway, Luke O Toole, Fionn Heffernan, Logan Nicholsan, Adam Meehan, Johnny Gray,Sean Snyman, Aaaron Kane, Shane Dempsey, DJ Brannock, Richard Snell, Billy Scully, Adam Doyle, Joseph Pendergast, John Joe McIllwrath.
Subs: Robin Dempsey, M J Prendergast, Glen Conway, Daragh Pender, Philip Kenny.
Check out our weekly rugby podcast where we chat to Carlow, Kilkenny and Tullow rugby clubs.