A Carlow Junior 3 rugby team, which only came together since Christmas, has won its way to Leinster’s Anderson Cup final.
Following close wins over Portarlington and Portlaoise, the Carlow side gained a semi final victory over Naas last Friday evening with a scoreline of 30 – 27.
In the match, played under lights at the Carlow IT grounds, it was a case of a youthful Kildare side up against a Carlow side well sprinkled with veterans. At least 10 of the Carlow side were on the wrong side of 30 with a few nudging towards 40. However a few good young runners mixed into the side, has achieved a successful blend.
Carlow scored first with a try of beauty. From a scrum in their own half the Carlow backs performed a series of loops and reverse passes which ended with scrumhalf Kevin Hanley in the clear and running in for an unconverted try.
From the Naas kick-off a Carlow player was heard to call “mine” but then let the ball hop. On the hard ground the ball hopped spectacularly back into the arms of the Naas number 6 who ran in for the easiest of tries. The conversion put Naas 7- 5 ahead, against the run of play.
Carlow regrouped and exerted control for the rest of the half. This resulted in a try in the corner by Wes Whitton after a series of pick-and-goes from the pack. Gordon Rowe failed narrowly with the wide out conversion but was on the money with a penalty five minutes before the interval. This put Carlow 13 – 7 ahead at half time.
The second half started badly for the Oakpark side when Naas kicked a penalty within 3 minutes.
However the side packed with veterans then hit a four minute purple patch which yielded two well worked tries.
Tries which appeared as if they came off the training ground. First Gordon Rowe broke through from half way with an angled run following a Carlow scrum. His well timed pass allowed flying winger Stuart O Malley to score under the posts. Within minutes, Carlow’s other centre, Peter Cassidy made a similar break from 25 metres and scored himself under the posts.
With the simple conversions Carlow now had a 27 – 10 lead, but would the veterans have the stamina to hold out for the last half hour?
In a game of high quality Naas began to dominate territory. Two tries, one converted, narrowed the score to 27 – 22. Carlow were defending desperately. Players were going down with injury and more likely exhaustion. First one and then two Carlow players were sin binned for high last ditch tackles which probably stopped Naas scores. Naas supporters were calling for a penalty try but the referee said no.
In a brief respite Carlow got a penalty on half way twenty metres in from the sideline. The Carlow outhalf was about to kick to the corner when Carlow 19 year old Carlow fullback Brian O Mahony came up and suggested that he could “kick it over”. The noted Gaelic player with Palatine duly landed the enormous penalty. This ended up being Carlow’s winning score.
As the game moved into stoppage time Carlow continued to defend desperately with 13 men. On the stroke of full time Naas breached the Carlow line again but with time up they didn’t even try to add the conversion. Carlow got through 30 points to 27.
In an all round high standard game Carlow’s outstanding performers included man of the match Barry Waddock, Wes Whitton, Joe O Gorman and Matt Murray.
Carlow J3 side
Brian O Mahony, Dillon Kehoe, Gordon Rowe, Peter Cassidy, Stuart O Malley, Matt Murray, Kevin Hanley, Aaran Owens, Rudi Corcoran, Joe O Gorman, Zach Fitzhenry, Barry Waddock, Chris Challe, John Farrell, Wes Whitton.
Subs Mark Slye, Tim O Donoghue, Eoin Rea, Baptiste Ganzagnes, Toby Couchman.