Wicklow RFC come up short away to Dundalk
DUNDALK 20 WICKLOW 10
THEY made jolly hard work of it, but Dundalk are now on the coattails of leaders Ashbourne after this uninspiring victory over Wicklow at Mill Road last Saturday.
In a refixture caused by an unplayable pitch at the same venue two weeks previously, Mike Walls’ charges needed a late Robert Williams try to make sure of the win against a Wicklow side who made up for a lack of cutting edge with sheer hard graft.
Conditions were perfect for running rugby, with a good surface and no wind, yet opportunities to spread the ball wide were somehow few and far between as a battle of the forwards ensued.
Dundalk out-half Gearoid McDonald brought the contest to life in the 11th minute when he chased and won his own Garryowen kick. From the resulting ruck the home side spread the ball wide, with great hands from Robert Farrell, Hamish Walker, Tiernan Gonnelly and Laurence Steen.
In the end, though, the hosts’ reward came from the boot of McDonald as he slotted over a straightforward penalty after Wicklow went offside.
Wicklow then made full use of their first visit into the opposition 22 when a quick tapped penalty led to a rolling maul from which their hooker Jack McKenna burrowed over the line.
Out half Shane Farrar’s conversion attempt from out on the left had just enough legs to creep over the crossbar and Wicklow now led 7-3.
A superb long, floated pass by McDonald set in motion another Dundalk attack as Steen and then Owen McNally carried into the Wicklow 22, only to lose the ball in the tackle.
However, when Walls collared his opposite number Dennis Higgins as he attempted to pass from the base of a scrum, Wicklow were under pressure again and a subsequent offside saw Dundalk turn down three more points in favour of an attacking scrum.
Robert Williams was held up over the line as he ran onto David Whately’s pass from the set-piece, but that only resulted in another scrum and with possession secured Whately and Tiernan Gonnelly bulldozed their way over the line, with Gonnelly credited with the score.
McDonald slotted over the conversion and with Farrar missing a long-range penalty chance at the other end Dundalk led 10-7 at the break.
Prop forward Johnny Gray knocked on over the line from a Walls pass as the men in white looked to put more distance between the teams on the restart, but from a rare Wicklow attack Farrar hauled the sides level with a penalty, awarded for a deliberate knock on by Robert Williams which saw the full back sin-binned.
Just when Dundalk looked to be in trouble, though, a timely moment of class put them back on the front foot.
With coach MJ McKevitt urging him to kick for the corner, centre Daragh Conroy did just that, bouncing the ball into touch inside the Wicklow 22 from well inside his own half.
Temporarily a man down, the Dundalk fifteen raised their game and pressure from Alistair McCormack saw a Wicklow player penalised for not releasing in the tackle. McDonald once more obliged with the penalty and Dundalk led 13-10 with 15 minutes remaining.
There were no thoughts of pushing for a bonus point at this stage, simply to ensure victory, and with Williams back on the pitch Walls managed to keep Wicklow on the back foot with a series of astute kicks.
Good work from replacement Ciaran Brannigan forced a Dundalk scrum in the Wicklow 22, from which Whately, Sean Arrowsmith and Walls were all held up either on or over the line.
But Dundalk’s patience was rewarded in the 77th minute when Walls’ cleverly timed pass put Robert Williams in for a try which crucially put two scores between the teams.
McDonald was once again unerring with the boot and Dundalk led 20-10 going into injury time.
Wicklow weren’t quite finished yet and as they chased a losing bonus a mazy run from their Kiwi centre Billy Ngawini took them close to the Dundalk line, but solid defence snuffed out the threat and victory was secured.
Dundalk have two more home games to follow in the next fortnight, starting with this Saturday’s visit of Gorey (2.30pm), and they will probably need to win both to keep in touch with leaders Ashbourne who currently have a five-point advantage.
Wicklow have a big away game this Saturday against Boyne, with both those teams needing a win to pull away from the relegation play-off position.
Derek Williams makes a break for Dundalk against Wicklow.