On a perfect day for rugby, weather-wise, there was a festive mood in Cill Dara’s home ground of Beech Park on Saturday when Tullow visited the Kildare club for the 9th round of Division 1A of the Leinster League.
Cill Dara: 28
The big crowd of supporters, some donning Santa hats in the club’s red and white colours, were treated to one of the best games seen at the club in years.
Cill Dara truly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat; a much needed win after two consecutive losses on the road.
Tullow struck early with a penalty after 5 minutes but Cill Dara immediately responded.
A Tullow indiscretion under their posts seemed a straight forward 3 point kick for the home team but scrum-half, Barry Waters, tapped quickly and caught the visitors unaware.
His offload was caught by Damian Broughall and the big number 8 touched down under the posts. An easy conversion was kicked by Barry Flanagan, giving the home team a 7-3 lead after 10 minutes.
A successful Flanagan penalty within minutes extended Cill Dara’s lead by three but Tullow soon settled into their rhythm and responded with a magnificently struck, long range penalty on 27 minutes.
In a game that ebbed and flowed between both 22’s, the Tullow forwards were looking the stronger in loose play. This was emphasised with the next try, as the Carlow pack controlled the ball through eight phases before touching down beside the Cill Dara posts. The conversion gave them a 13-10 lead as the half came to close.
Even more worrying for the home side was the sin-binning of Billy O’Shea for an infringement in the lead up to that try.
Unperturbed, the remaining 14 men drove aggressively into the Tullow half and won a penalty. Successfully converted by Flanagan, it was the last action of the half, bringing the score to 13 points apiece at the break.
Still missing a player at the restart, the opening minutes of the second half were disastrous for the Kildare team. Their kick off was taken in by Tullow, controlled and then spread wide for their winger to score a cracking try in the corner. No added two points on this occasion but Cill Dara were rattled.
O’Shea’s arrival back into the game had little effect on Tullow as they added their second try in the 56th minute.
A lineout close to the Cill Dara line was won and mauled over by the Tullow pack. A difficult conversion was missed but Tullow were now up by ten points, 23-13, with only a quarter of the game to go.
Jack Ryan, on as a sub, closed the gap with a penalty on the 62nd minute after Tullow impeded at a Cill Dara ruck and suddenly there was a glimmer of hope for the home crowd as Cill Dara fought desperately to preserve their unbeaten home record. Real optimism replaced hope when a Cill Dara rolling maul drove over the Tullow line and the “carded” O’Shea was redeemed after being credited with the touchdown. Although the kick from Ryan was missed, it was “game on” at 21-23 and 6 minutes remaining.
Tullow were on the ropes but defended their two point lead well. The referee had indicated that he was in injury time when he awarded Tullow a scrum close to the Carlow men’s line.
All seemed lost but the Cill Dara pack summoned strength from their vocal home support and drove the Tullow scrum off their own put in.
It was an extraordinary match winning feat by the eight forwards allowing scrum-half Waters to pounce on the loose ball that squirted out and score the crucial try. The conversion by Ryan gave the home team a breathless 28-23 victory.
In a very competitive league, where only a few points separate 3rd place from last, Cill Dara now move into fifth spot.
The league takes break until the New Year with Dundalk the next visitors to “fortress” Beech Park on January 4th.
CILL DARA: Jimmy Murphy, Conor Heavey, Con McCormack, Billy O’Shea, Shane McCormack, Darragh Kennedy, Owen Byrne, Damian Broughall, Barry Waters, Barry Flanagan, Jake Holland, Miles Medlecott, Tom Cleary, Paudy Wall, Paddy Ryan.