Drama at the death
Porter downs Dundalk with late try after bruising battle
WICKLOW RFC’S Senior men took on a tough Dundalk RFC side when the Leinster League resumed at Ashtown Lane on Saturday after the Christmas break.
Dundalk were lying second from bottom in this ultra competitive league.
The Louth men, coached by former Wicklow RFC player coach Niall Smullen, thrashed Wicklow earlier in the season in the reverse fixture and George Naoupus’ men felt that they would have to be at their best to come away with the points.
The game was played on a dry day with a light breeze that favoured the away side in the first half.
Both sides struggled to get going in the opening stages. There was a clear case of ring rustiness as both teams found it difficult to get any meaningful momentum in the first 20 minutes.
It was 25 minutes in before Dundalk opened the scoring with a deserved penalty.
This seemed to wake Wicklow up and they bounced immediately with an excellent try.
Slick hands by Charlie Butterworth put Shane Farrar through the smallest of gaps.
The ball went wide to Luke Gersekowski and back to Billy Ngawini.
The speedy centre produced a wicked side step to round his man and score close to the posts. The conversion from Ben Porter made it 7-3 after 27 minutes.
Dundalk hit back with another penalty as the half time whistle approached to make it 7-6. Simon Breen then looked to have scored in the corner, but the referee had spotted a knock-on.
Soon afterwards, a Wicklow scrum led to a series of carries by the Wicklow pack. Eventually, the ball moved wide to Ngawini, who once again danced around his opposite number to get over unscathed for the try. Porters conversion made it 14-6 to Wicklow at the break.
Dundalk dominated the early stages of the second half. Wicklow’s discipline went out the window and the referee began to punish them.
A series of penalties went Dundalk’s way. Two kicks at goal were successful and the score was narrowed to 14-12 with 20 minutes on the clock.
Ben Porter gave Wicklow a little breathing space with a penalty that made it 17-12 with 15 minutes left.
As time wound down, Dundalk, desperate for the win, upped the ante and pinned Wicklow deep in their own half.
With ten minutes left wing forward Wes Wojnar went to the sin bin but the resultant penalty was narrowly wide. A let off for Wicklow, but Dundalk kept hammering away.
Deep in injury time, player coach George Naoupu was sin binned and Wicklow were down to 13 men.
A powerful Dundalk scrum on the Wicklow five-metre line went down.
The second scrum appeared to wheel180 degrees, but the referee deemed it to be a penalty try. No conversion was necessary, and Dundalk led 17-19.
There was just about time to kick off. Wicklow managed to regain possession and launched one last desperate attack from deep inside their own half.
The referee had indicated that this was the last play. The ball was recycled through phase after phase as Wicklow threw the kitchen sink at the Louth men.
Wicklow moved the ball wide to the left and then stretched them wide to the right. Alex Porter looked like he might get in, but he was held up in the left corner.
The ball went right and in the gathering gloom it looked like Wicklow were over in the right corner.
Some desperate last-ditch defence from Dundalk kept them out, but the pressure was beginning to tell.
The ball was moved quickly back to the right. Wicklow had a two man overlap but Ben Porter spotted a gap and the powerful full back drove through to score a brilliant team try.
Ashtown Lane erupted. Wicklow were elated and Dundalk were heartbroken. This was a game that could have gone either way but Wicklow just about shaded it in the end.
Overall it was a mixed performance by the home side, but they showed true grit, determination and ice in the veins to produce that final score when it was desperately needed.
The result keeps Wicklow comfortably in third place with four games remaining. Wicklow have a bye in the first round of the Town Cup which kicks off in two weeks’ time.
A very young Wicklow second team produced an excellent performance to beat a tough Dundalk side.
There were some notable performances from debutants Cormac Murray, Dylan Byrne and Sam Porter amongst others.
Cormac Murray scored a try on his senior debut for Wicklow. Wicklow withheld a desperate last minute attack that saw the ball knocked forward under the Wicklow posts with the last play of the game.
This was an important win for the seconds who will be looking for a strong finish to the league and a good run in the Provincial Seconds Cup.
Next Saturday sees both firsts and seconds travel to Boyne for the next round of the Leinster League. Boyne are bottom of the league and are fighting for survival. Another tricky away fixture for both teams. Kick off is at 1pm and 2.30pm WICKLOW FIRSTS: Eddie Downes, Jack McKenna, Mark Cullen, Liam Gaffney, George Naoupu, Wes Wojnar, Luke Gersekowski, Charlie Butterworth, Dennis Higgins, Shane Farrar, Dean Leonard ,Simon Breen, Ngawini, Adam Cullen, Ben Porter. Subs Mark Nicholson, Eanna Killeen, Brian Shortt Seamus O’Brien, Alex Porter.
WICKLOW SECONDS: Seamus O’Brien, Eanna Killeen, Stephen Swann, Andy O’Boyle, Sam Porter, Tom Maguire, David Henderson, Lorcan Smullen, Shane Byrne, Ally Byrne, Conor Vize, Cian Reynolds, Alex Porter, James Stafford, Jack Dunne, Dylan Byrne, John Jenkinson, John Kearney, Cormac Murray, Darren Byrne.
Wicklow celebrate after Ben Porter charged across the Dundalk line in the last play of the game at Ashtown Lane.