By Seamus Dunne
WEXFORD ran out nine-point winners over Tullow on Saturday afternoon in the Leinster U18 Youth Premier League Final, played in Mullingar Rugby Club.
After an even first half, there were just two points between the sides, 12-10 in favour of the powerful Wexford team.
They pulled away from Tullow in the second half however, with two converted tries, their pace and power the key to victory.
Tullow fought brilliantly till the end, with their scrum and set-piece immense throughout.
Tullow started the game well in wet and windy conditions on the all-weather pitch in Mullingar, having substantial possession early on.
Wexford were first to score on the 10-minute mark. Sean Kelly-Komalafe broke through tackles and ran clear to cross the try line and put Wexford 5-0 up, with the conversion attempt going wide.
Kelly-Komalafe was at the forefront of the Wexford attack again minutes later, he broke through the Tullow defence and took his team to within metres of another try, with Ben Popplewell eventually forcing the ball over.
A commanding 12-0 lead for Wexford on 20 minutes, Tullow responded straight from the restart, winning a penalty which Dylan Doyle slotted between the posts to make it 12-3.
Great kicking from Tadgh Walsh relived the pressure on Tullow and got them up the other end of the pitch.
They took advantage of that great position when another impressive Tullow scrum led to Brian Keogh squeezing over the line, to get a vital try for his side.
Dylan Doyle converted to leave just two between the sides at the break, 12-10 in favour of Wexford, with Tullow finishing the first period the stronger.
Tadgh Walsh continued to impress for Tullow with his kicking early into the second half, before Wexford’s power and pace, caused problems once more.
A driving run from Elliot Ogbemudia took them up the pitch, with the ball being worked out into the corner to Louis Richard, he crossed over for the try which was then converted to leave the score 19-10.
A blow for Tullow, but they refused to wilt, and their efficiency in the scrum reaped dividends with 15 minutes to go.
Tullow put the pressure on at the scrum in the Wexford half, Tadgh Walsh then excellently intercepted a pass and ran clear for the try, Tullow still with every chance of lifting the silverware.
Wexford kept Tullow at arm’s length with 10 to play, the ball carrying of Sean Kelly-Komalofe superb once more, he got close to the line before Elliot Ogbemudia finished the job, an important score for Wexford.
Tullow continued to show great character, refusing to go down without a fight, their pressure causing a yellow card and sin bin for Wexford’s Eoin Foley.
Thomas Pilkington and Brian Kehoe so nearly got Tullow a late try to close the gap to two, but the clock ran out, Wexford winning by nine points.
Tullow can hold their heads high after pushing their strong opponents all the way.
Tullow: Thomas Pilkington, Stephen Carroll, Brian Keogh, Cian Byrne, Sam Hogan, Pat Hickey, Diarmuid Deacon, Des McDonald, Dylan Doyle, Tadgh Walsh, William O’ Brien, Padhraig Bolger, Jack Hanlon, Rory Maguire, Billy Lawlor. Subs: Fiach Kavanagh for C Byrne (40 mins), Troy Kinch Randell for W O’Brien (51 mins), Diarmuid Burrows for D McDonald and Cian Byrne for S Hogan (57 mins), Jake Dore for T Walsh (60 mins), Cole Doran for R Maguire (62 mins), Luke Coleman, Tadgh McCarthy Griffin