Ashbourne 12, Gorey 33: Leinster competition rugby recommenced after the Christmas break with phase two of the Youths Premier League.
Gorey’s Under-18s travelled to Ashbourne after both teams successfully progressed from their qualifying groups in December.
Gorey entered the game as slight favourites after their strong showing in the earlier phase, but Ashbourne is always a difficult place to come away from with a win, and nobody knew how either team would cope after the long Christmas lay-off.
Gorey started the strongest, immediately putting the home team under pressure, and within minutes of the start they were threatening the Ashbourne line.
The home team found themselves with a line-out in their own ‘22, which Gorey captain Tadhg O’Neill disrupted, and an ever-alert Mark Boyle pounced on for the opening try.
Birthday boy Oisín Fortune made sure of the conversion to leave the visitors seven points ahead with just three minutes on the clock.
Gorey piled on the pressure immediately after the re-start, with Alex Rothwell, Joe Butler and Oran Fitzpartick putting in big hits on their opposite numbers.
However, as the half developed, Ashbourne fought back and began to find traction, as Gorey seemed to lose their shape. There were a number of uncharacteristic missed tackles from Gorey and players losing their positions, leaving big overlaps, which Ashbourne failed to avail of on a number of occasions.
Ashbourne could have found themselves ahead several times, but for unfortunate knock-ons, as well as a couple of superb covering tackles by Seán Wafer.
However, it was only a matter of time before the home side avoided a number of attempted tackles and got a well-deserved try to narrow the gap to 7-5.
Gorey looked a bit shell-shocked and Ashbourne continued to pile on the pressure, but with five minutes left in the half, scrum-half Cillian Tomkins made a great interception and ran a good 50 metres heading for the Ashbourne try line.
He was eventually caught by a quick-footed defender, who floored him, but not before the most exquisite off-load by Tomkins to the closely chasing Mark Boyle who got over for his and Gorey’s second try. Fortune added the extras to leave his team 14-5 ahead.
Ashbourne continued to make life difficult for Gorey, but as the seconds counted down to half-time, the visitors were awarded a penalty in the opposition ’22.
It looked like out-half Cathal Stokes would kick for touch, but at the last minute he tapped and passed to Mark Boyle, who stormed over for his third try.
The conversion was narrowly missed and was followed immediately by the referee’s whistle for half-time to see the visitors go in with a 19-5 advantage.
The second-half kicked off with Gorey once again the stronger starters, and it wasn’t long before hooker Cormac Walsh made one of his signature barnstorming runs.
He beat several defenders before passing to Seán Wafer, who made good ground before finally passing to the in-form Boyle to score yet again. Fortune’s conversion extended Gorey’s lead to 26-5.
Ashbourne wouldn’t lie down and continued to present problems for Gorey. Some further last-minute tackles from Seán Wafer foiled what looked like certain try-scoring opportunities for the home team.
But Ashbourne’s persistence paid off when their outside centre dodged and weaved to avoid would-be tackles and went through for a well-worked try directly under the posts. The easy conversion improved the scoreline for the home team to 26-12.
Gorey’s strong defence ensured there would be no further breaches by Ashbourne, but there was to be one more try for the leaders, as prop Niall Kenny made great yards, beating several defenders before passing to Joe Butler for the last try of the game.
Once again, Fortune made sure of the conversion to leave the final score 33-12 in Gorey’s favour.
This was a good win for Gorey, but the scoreline possibly flattered them a little. They can be very happy with their workmanlike performance and they stuck to the task right up until the final whistle.
Some good performances were seen all round, including from replacements Cian Kenny and Martin O’Loughlin, but the man of the match for his outstanding individual performance goes to Mark Boyle.
Next Saturday, January 12, Gorey welcome Naas to Clonattin, with the visitors sitting just one point below the Wexford men, after their crushing 34-0 home win over Enniscorthy.
Gorey: Niall Kenny, Cormac Walsh, Jack Ryan, Joe Butler, Tadhg O’Neill (capt.), Frank Kavanagh, Alex Rothwell, Mark Boyle, Cillian Tomkins, Cathal Stokes, Oran Fitzpatrick, Adam Byrne, Seán Wafer, Brian O’Leary, Oisín Fortune. Subs. - Martin O’Loughlin, Rhys Slator, Cian Kenny, Robert Murphy.