Wicklow RFC come up short away to Dun­dalk

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - At Mill Road


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.

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