Firsts within whisker of salvaging a draw
WICKLOW First XV suffered a disappointing and rare defeat at home at the hands of a good Gorey side on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams went into the game in joint second place just behind league leaders Enniscorthy.
The game was played on a wet day with a strong diagonal crosswind that favoured the home side in the first half.
It was Gorey who started the stronger of the two teams. They piled on the pressure in the early stages and came close to scoring on several occasions early on.
Wicklow’s defence was outstanding all day and they managed to clear their lines well, but they struggled to make any real inroads into Gorey territory. As half-time approached the stalemate continued.
Wicklow were awarded a penalty just before the break and Niall Earls landed a beauty from 45 metres out to give the home side a 3-0 lead.
Gorey responded immediately with a penalty of their own to go in at half time at 3-3. Gorey were probably the better team in the first half and turned with the wind at their backs for the second half.
Wicklow began to up the ante. They soon had Gorey under significant pressure. The conditions were making it very difficult for both teams but they produced a remarkably good game of rugby despite the weather. A long spell of Wicklow pressure looked like it would break the deadlock but outstanding Gorey defence allowed them to clear downfield again.
The second half was a revers of the first half. The side playing into the wind had almost all of the possession and almost all of the attacking opportunities. Gorey hung on grimly as Wicklow pounded their line but to their credit they held firm.
As time ran out a rare second half foray into Wicklow territory for the Wexford men. A long kick Photo: Roisin McCullagh. through deep into the Wicklow 22. The safer option would have been to clear to touch but Wicklow’s intention was to win the game and they ran the ball.
A good Gorey kick chase brought the attempted break out to an end. A hasty and illegal clearout yielded a simple penalty to Gorey. The kicker made no mistake and Gorey led 3-6, deep into injury time. The referee signalled that there was time for one last play. Wicklow kicked off and did brilliantly to reclaim the kick off. The drama wasn’t over yet.
The referee awarded the home side a penalty 35 metres out. Niall Earls opted to take on the difficult kick to attempt to salvage the draw.
The kick was struck well but heart-breakingly hit the upright and dropped away and Gorey cleared to safety. The final whistle went and Gorey had won.
Wicklow performed well on the day but were gutted not to have won the game.
This was a fine Gorey side but Wicklow will have felt they had enough chances to put them away in the second half and didn’t take them.
They slip to third place in this ultra competitive league, three points behind Gorey and five behind Ennicorthy. There is plenty of rugby to be played yet.
This weekend Wicklow travel to Northern Ireland to take on Ballyclare in the All-Ireland Junior Cup quarter-final.
This is a really challenging fixture for Wicklow as they face a strong club that is flying high at the top of their league in Ulster. They have six bonus point wins in a row and Wicklow will need to be at their very very best to come away with a result. Kick off is at 2.30 p.m.
Wicklow: Eanna Killeen, Jack McKenna, Neil Dickenson, Liam Gaffney, George Naoupu, Fergus Ward, Brian Shortt, Luke Gersekowski, Dennis Higgins, Niall Earls ,Simon Breen, Shane Farrar, Billy Ngawini, Dean Leonard, Ben Porter. Subs Mark Higgins, Pablo Castello Vinolo, Jason Byrne, Mark Cullen, Stephen Swan. Photo: Yvette O Beirne.
Dennis Higgins gets the Wicklow backs moving.