Provincial Towns Plate Final Ashbourne 11 Longford 09
Longford lost out on the Provincial Towns Plate in the cruellest of fashion when an end of game penalty for Ashbourne snatched victory with a score of 11-09.
It’s been a tough weekend for Longford RFC. Two last minute strikes crushing hopes and expectations. On Saturday they were relegated to Division 2A after Enniscorthy lost out in their AIL Promotion/Relegation contest against Sligo, again in the last minute.
That was unpalatable enough, but having lead Division 1A side Ashbourne for the majority of the Plate contest they saw the silverware flutter away in the breeze when the Meath scrumhalf Gavin Kennedy clipped over in the dying minutes to seal the deal for the home side.
This was inevitable going to be a tough task for Longford with the opponents, who finished third in their division, enjoying the benefit of a home final. The visitors started nervously, allowing the bigger side to bully. They also conceding possession too easily.
Anxiety aside the men in black did enough to contain the opponents. Ashbourne turned territorial dominance into score thanks to a penalty in the 8th minute. Kennedy converted the 35 metre effort to put his side in front 03-00.
The visitors replied well, the first score against them having a calming effect. They got into their stride and carries by Allister McCormack, Benny McManus and Derek Farrell all helped the team assert themselves.
The work of the forwards was augmented by strike running by centres Ciaran Kennedy and Shane Rodgers, both taking advantage of Colm Glynn’s excellent distribution. It was just after the 20 minute mark when outhalf Glynn was given his first shot at the posts from 35 metres out. Shooting with the breeze the 10 made no mistake.
Glynn added to his tally in the 32nd minute with another penalty to push his side in front 03-06, where it stayed to the break.
Longford started the second half as they had finished the first, competing on an equal footing in every area of the paddock. That contest was instrumental in the pressure that saw the Meath men cough up a third kickable penalty early in the second half. Glynn added to the Longford Haul bringing it to 03-09.
The out half continued to confound the home side’s defence and his backs ran great lines, adding to the attacking force of the pack.
However it was Ashbourne\ that got the next score. An impressive move wrong footed a Longford defence that had been solid through the game. It saw the Meath men’s winger cross in the corner on the 62nd minute mark.
Longford still held the lead, even if it was just by the narrowest of margin, on a score of 08-09. They fought to put the opponents to sword. Breaks by Farrell, Clifford Richardson, McCormack and McManus all looked as if they would yield scores, but the home team were always able to do enough to contain the threat.
Longford suffered a setback in the 75th minute when prop Liam Brady was ushered to the line, the recipient of a harsh yellow card. Longford defended well, but coughed up a penalty 45 metres out in the dying moments of the game.
The tension in the ground, which contained a sizable traveling Longford contingent, was dramatic. Kennedy lined up the shot and put it between the posts and through Longford hearts. Longford have played some fantastic rugby since last Christmas. The 15/16 season will be remembered as the nearly season.
So many close encounters, but ultimately nothing but ashes in the mouth. Well, there is always next year and there are a lot of young contributors who can bring hopes for the next 12 months.