In their vital showdown game on Sunday Carlow came agonisingly close to attaining the promotional playoff spot in their final game in Division 2A of the Leinster Rugby League.
Carlow needed to beat Dublin opponents Railway Union and stop them from getting a losing bonus point.
The first part was achieved in that Carlow won Sunday’s away game by 24 to 23 points. But the losing point gained by Railway Union just squeezed them into second place in the Table although both teams finished on 49 Table points.
Carlow dominated the play in the first half and looked good value for their 24 – 9 half time lead.
But from the start of the second half Carlow were on the wrong side of refereeing decisions which included crucially two yellow cards and a penalty count of nine to one. At the end of the game the Carlow management team, players and coaches left the Dublin venue angry and frustrated.
Railway Union got the first points on the board with two successful penalties to lead 6 nil ten minutes into the game. But Carlow pressure and forward supremacy for the rest of the half brought them three converted tries and a penalty without reply.
First number 10 Fionnan Burke was quickest to react to a kick block down and ran in for a try under the posts. This was followed by two tries by the rampaging James Nolan. One came from a ruck which followed a line-out in the corner. The other came from a scrum near the Railway Union line in which Carlow had the run on their opponents. All three tries were converted by Peter Hennessey who also scored a penalty and was wide with another attempt.
Meanwhile the home team were wide with two kickable penalties on either side of half time.
Fifteen minutes into the second half Carlow suffered their first sin binning hammer blow when sub Ross Elmes was yellow card for allegedly “coming in from the side”. From the penalty RU kicked to the corner and managed to slip in for a converted try against the disorganised Carlow defence. The score now stood at RU 16 Carlow 24 but with the 8 point gap Carlow were still second in the Table.
But worse was to follow. Before Elmes sin binning was completed, James Nolan joined him when he too was yellow carded for coming in from the side after he tackled a RU player on the half way line. Again RU kicked for the corner and got through for a second converted try from the lineout. The score was now RU 23 Carlow 24. A Carlow try without reply would bring a four try bonus point which would again put them second in the table.
Ross Elmes came back on and the 14 man Carlow side worked their way all the way to the home side’s line but without Nolan they failed to get in. RU got relief from yet another penalty.
Nolan came back on with six minutes left. The Carlow players lacked nothing in effort but panic seemed to set in and they lost their shape. Players were making solo runs which on the day seemed to result in the inevitable penalty for holding on after the tackle. Railway Union held on for the one point loss which for them was a victory. The Oakpark boys were left to rue what might have been in a season of missed opportunity.
However with young players like Fionnan Burke at 10, the Hennessey brothers, the Byrne brothers at prop, Furey, Shirley, Bermingham, Challe and Nolan in the pack and others the future looks good.
Carlow J1 .
Peter Hennessey, Jeff McDermott, Harry Hennessey, Simon Walshe, Clive Atkinson, Fionnan Burke, John Whyte, Ross Byrne, Conal Slater, Alan Byrne, Mark Furey, Wes Shirley capt, Niall Bermingham, James Nolan, Chris Challe.
Subs used Larry McGrath, John Farrell, John Lyons, Ross Elmes, Mark Elmes,