Ashbourne come up just short against table toppers!
Ashbourne 1st XV took on league leaders Enniscorthy in the first game of the New Year though they came up short; they took a lot away from the game, including a losing bonus point.
There was four points between them at the end with a score of 23 points to 27, but Ashbourne were close and could have done it. They played the last 20 minutes with 14 men, losing scrumhalf Conor McNally to a red card, but it was harsh.
On a bright and sunny afternoon Ashbourne were trailing within 2 minutes to an Enniscorthy penalty. Ashbourne knuckled down and within 7 minutes were level with David Carey taking 3 points with a well-executed drop goal.
But this Enniscorthy team is not league leaders for nothing. They are a quality side and cut Ashbourne opened to score under the posts and stretch to a 10 to 3 lead. Ashbourne were up for this and physically had the upper had in the scrums, but Enniscorthy were very aggressive at the breakdown but conceding penalties in the process. Dunne had a poor day and missed three kicks in a row with one hitting the upright. Ashbourne was applying the pressure but not getting the reward.
It remained like this until nearly halftime when Ashbourne went to the corner for a lineout rather than kicking at goal. From the lineout the ball was worked infield and Ashbourne won a scrum. After three resets with Enniscorthy struggling, Ashbourne drove again and when the scrum dropped Ashbourne were awarded a penalty try to level things up.
They say after scoring you are most vulnerable and Ashbourne must have been thinking of halftime as from the restart Enniscorthy won possession and outflanked the home defense to score in the right corner. They went into the break trailing by 17 points to 10.
The excitement continued from the off and it was real gutsy and aggressive rugby from both sides. This was their third game this season against one another and possibly they knew one another too well. A Deevy interception in his own half was stopped short of the line by an illegal tackle and the Enniscorthy player was sent to the bin. A penalty try might have been expected but it was not to be. After intense Ashbourne pressure Enniscorthy held firm resisting wave after wave of Ashbourne attacks, with Crotty eventually taking 3 points to narrow the gap to 13 points to 17.
Enniscorthy always looked like they could score when the ball went out to the backs. Though Ashbourne defended really well they were again out flanked in the right corner for another converted Enniscorthy try. At 24 to 13 they were intent on their bonus point try. This they did not achieve.
Dunne was injured and Gavin Kennedy came on for his first game for the 1st team in 15 months. An exchange on penalties saw the score get to 16 points to 27 before the red card. The ref missed an unsavoury incident behind his back that should have seen the Ashbourne player joined on the sideline by an Enniscorthy player and tempers were beginning to flair. That said shortly afterwards another Enniscorthy player picked up a yellow card so for ten minutes the sides were equally in number.
To Ashbourne’s credit they kept working hard and it was draining on the players. Roche was replaced by Keith Kennedy, which saw Jake Wall moving into the second row. The reward came with a second penalty try to Ashbourne. This score came with the visitors back at full strength and was a reward for the Ashbourne’s never saw die attitude. At 23 points to 27 the game was still open but Enniscorthy kept pushing for their 4th try. This in the end was to Ashbourne’s benefit as the home side dug deep and possibly could have snatched it in the end.
The score did not changed and Ashbourne had to settle for the a losing bonus point while Enniscorthy extend their lead at the top to 6 points. Ashbourne site in 4th place, with DLSP to come to Ashbourne next week who sit in 3rd [lace. Plenty to play for yet in what has been a good season to date.