TULLOW came away from Oakpark on Sunday with local rugby bragging rights firmly in their pocket following their 24-18 Leinster League win over home side Carlow.
The highly entertaining match played in ideal conditions saw the lead changing hands several times. Carlow began strongly and within four minutes had a 3-0 lead from a Ritchie Whyte penalty.
Four minutes later Tullow were awarded a penalty under the Carlow posts. Instead of taking the three points on offer, they took a quick tap and ran the ball. The home players withstood that first onslaught but the ball was recycled and eventually second rower Martin Cole burst through for a try which was converted by Paul Canavan.
The game continued with end-to-end action. Both outhalves were gaining territory with long rangy clearance kicks. It was expected that the heavier Tullow pack would have scrum dominance but the Carlow eight were just about holding them.
Midway through the opening half Carlow outhalf Ritchie Whyte, with penalty advantage, kicked to the right wing to Callum Murphy who scored in the corner. Whyte then converted from the touchline to put Carlow 10-7 ahead.
Tullow launched an assault on the Carlow line with Smith and Hanbidge to the fore but the ball was held up. Tullow still held penalty advantage which Canavan goaled to make it 10 points apiece.
Ten minutes later a Ritchie penalty restored Carlow’s lead. Canavan was wide from 35 metres in front of the posts for Tullow but the visitors were now beginning to show dominance. On the stroke of half time Tullow’s Smith knocked on with the line under his nose. Then a last ditch tackle from full back Fionan Burke stopped a Tullow try in the corner, but Tullow tails were up and after Sean Doyle made a run up the right wing the ball was recycled to number six Kyle Hanbidge who barged over. Canavan’s conversion gave his team a 17-13 half-time lead.
In the second half the visitors continued to turn the screw on the home side. This was greatly facilitated by Carlow’s concession of a series of penalties at the breakdown. Almost inevitably this resulted in a yellow card for repeat offending 12 minutes into the half. The recipient Ross Byrne had just come on as a substitute.
During the sin binning Tullow attacked again and again. Carlow defended gamely from side to side but eventually Tullow’s Sean Doyle ran in their third try. Canavan’s conversion made it 24-13 and the visitors were looking strong.
However Carlow brought on a couple of subs. Scrum-half Isaac Daly was injured and replaced by John Whyte. Ross Byrne came back on to shore up the scrums. The tide began to turn back in Carlow’s favour. 30 minutes into the half Whyte stroked a kickable penalty to the corner. From the lineout the Carlow pack drove the visitors back over their own line with sub John Farrell getting the touchdown.
Ritchie Whyte’s conversion was wide but the home side, now on a losing bonus point, went after a late winning score.
The manner of the pushover try seemed to energise Carlow and their supporters and the remainder of the game was played near the Tullow tryline. Now it was Tullow’s turn for desperate last-ditch tackling. Sean Doyle saved a certain try from a Carlow winger. Tullow sub William Cass O Brien was sin binned for a dangerous high tackle but a penalty try was not forthcoming.
Eventually Carlow ran out of time and were not able to repeat the last gasp win that their seconds side had earlier achieved.
However both sets of supporters agreed that this was one of the most entertaining derbies ever played between the two protagonists.
Carlow: Fionan Burke, Jeff McDermott, Sam Cullen, Pat Connors, Callum Murphy, Ritchie Whyte, Isaac Daly, Larry McGrath, Conal Slator, John Lyons, Wes Shirley, Thomas Whitney, Martin Mullins, John Murphy, Ross Elmes. Subs: John Farrell, Luke Curran, Ross Byrne, Owen Edgehill, John Whyte, Sam Dunne.
Tullow: Sean Doyle, Ryan O’Neill, Shane Rohan, Aho Bloomfield, Richard Nicholls, William Canavan, Dylan Leybourne, Scott Caldbeck, Sam Corrigan, Tom Cashen, Frank Murphy, Martin Cole, Kyle Hanbidge, James O’Brien, Stephen Smith. Subs: Aaron Byrne, Jordan Leybourne, Jack McDonald, Paul Canavan, Philip Deane