On Easter Sunday 2017, Tullow were crowned Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup champions with a resounding 20-3 victory over Skerries in Athy.
Tries from semi-final hero Richie Nichols and Stephen Smith along with Dylan Leybourne and a William Cas O’Brien penalty ensured that the top honour in Irish junior rugby is heading back to Blackgates.
They had tried in 2008 and were overpowered by Navan. In 2012 they met a strong Enniscorthy in a much closer content but game up short. But in 2017, having just missed out on the 1A/1B playoffs, this was the time for Tullow.
It was a nervy, often times scrappy opening few minutes to the game with both sides producing a few handling errors, as Tullow and Skerries kicked off slightly earlier than the 3.30pm advertised start.
In what was the highlight score of the game, Richie Nichols tried first for Tullow, capitalising on a Skerries error inside his own ten metre line to run the length of the pitch and dive between the posts, Ryan O’Neill making sure of the conversion to give The Tullow Wave just what they came to see.
Approaching the half hour mark, Robbie Jenkinson tacked on three points for Skerries from in front of the posts and had the opportunity to close the gap two minutes later but for his kick to sail wide right.
Tullow would close out the first half with 14 men, Kyle Hanbidge seeing yellow with 8 minutes to go but that wouldn’t stop the Blackgates side entering power play mode, Stephen Smith taking ball, man and all over the line for Tullow’s second try of the day.
Ryan O’Neill’s conversion attempt went wide left, bringing up half time with Tullow in a 12-3 lead.
Just like they did in the first half, Tullow extended their lead further with a Dylan Leybourne try inside the opening ten minutes of the second half. With penalty opportunities afforded to them on a number of occasions down the right flank, Tullow opted to go for the corner each time instead of kicking for three. The move paid off with Leybourne crossing the line to push out to 17-3, O’Neill’s conversion stopping short of another two points.
Skerries saw yellow themselves with 8 minutes remaining in the second half for a deliberate slap down, William Cas O’Brien taking over kicking duties for the now absent O’Neill, extending Tullow’s lead to 20-3.
The Dublin side would throw everything they had at Tullow for the closing exchanges, tap-and-go all the way to push for a redemption try but came up short and at the final whistle it was the Carlow men who claimed the Provincial Towns Cup for the first time in their history.
Final score Tullow 20, Skerries 3.
Tullow: Louis Kilcoyne, Sam Corrigan, Scott Caldbeck, Frank Murphy, Joe Waters, Kyle Hanbidge, John Hanbidge, Stephen Smith, Dylan Leybourne, William Cas O’Brien, Richie Nichols, Aho Bloomfield, Shane Rohan, Ryan O’Neill, Sean Doyle. Replacements Aaron Byrne, Martin Cole, John Fitzgerald, William Holla O’Brien, Jedd Pratt, James O’Brien.
Skerries: Conor Ronayne, Kieran Leonard, Neil Martin, AJ Sherlock, Sean Attley, Trevor Scufill, Ben Jenkinson, Conn Marrey, Robbie Jenkinson, David Quirke, Mark Oliver, Barry Caldwell, David Goodman, Ruairi Woods, Ross Gordon. Replacements Darragh Joyce, Eoin O’Byrne, Ross Halligan, Michael Caldwell, Colin McMahon.
Full commentary playback will be available in podcast on Monday 18 April.