Dundalk RFC made the long trip to the far end of Leinster to play the 2012 Towns Cup winners Enniscorthy on Saturday afternoon.
After Dundalk’s win against Coolmine at home two weeks ago, both teams were sitting on equal points in the league table and both hungry for victory to keep them in the top half.
Dundalk knew it wasn’t going to be easy as Enniscorthy have a large physical pack and strong running backs.
The Mill Road side kicked off and kept Enniscorthy pinned inside their own half for the opening few minutes. The visitors showed no sign of weariness from the long journey and continued to attack with fast running and wide passing.
Eager to get points on the board, Dundalk pushed a little too hard allowing the Enniscorthy winger to intercept the ball with all the Dundalk team on attack. The home winger sprinted up the wing to score under the posts and with five minutes gone, it was 7- 0 to the home side, completely against the run of play.
Dundalk bounced back from this shock and attacked the Enniscorthy line again. They were rewarded with a penalty but Ultan Murphy’s shot missed the post by inches.
Undaunted, Dundalk kept Enniscorthy pinned back in their own half and eventually broke through the defensive line with hard fast running from Afa Fa’atau. He bounced off his tackler, charged down the wing only to be put into touch a mere 10 meters from the try line. Enniscorthy won their own lineout and lifted the siege, albeit temporally.
After a great run by Gerard Scully, who was eventually tackled out wide, Dundalk were awarded a scrum for an Enniscorthy knock-on. A strong Dundalk scrum gave Greg Whately, playing at number 8, a great platform to work off.
He found scrum half Thomas Campbell with his pass, who in turn fed a charging Afa Fa’atau for the big man to burst his way through the tackler and score under the post. Just reward for the visitors who were playing the better rugby. Murphy converted to draw the match at 7-7 on 15minutes.
Unfortunately Ata Fa’afatu had to depart the field due to injury and was replaced by Robert Shields. This was a major blow to Dundalk as Fa’atau was on form and had been a real hand full for Enniscorthy.
Enniscorthy attacked the Dundalk defense but could find no way through. After 10 phases, and with them losing ground to the hard hitting defense, the home side’s out half slotted over a drop goal to put Enniscorthy 10-7 up after 20 minutes.
From the restart Dundalk piled on the pressure and worked the ball from wing to wing with the strong carrying from Simon Crawford, Robert Farrell and Ene Fa’atau.
Dundalk continued to grind out the hard yards until a ruck 10 meters from the try line saw Enniscorthy buckle under the relentless pressure, going offside at the ruck.
The referee awarded Dundalk the penalty and quick thinking by Jonathan Grey, who had the ball in his hands, quick tapped and charged the defence. He succeeded in breaking through several tackles and scored a magnificent try right under the posts. Ultan Murphy added the extra points with a relatively easy conversion to put Dundalk ahead 14-10 on 25 minutes.
Enniscorthy fought back and gained groung after a number of phases. But, as had been the pattern all afternoon, the Dundalk defense held resolute. Enniscorthy’s attack play eventually started to run out of steam and their out half resorted to another drop goal to close the gap to 13-14 just before half time.
The half time whistle saw Dundalk go into the break with the single point advantage.
The early minutes of the second half were crucial for Dundalk. They needed to push ahead and kill off Enniscorthy and it really was a case of whoever scored first would probably go on to win this closely contested match.
For Dundalk, it was a mix up in the lineout that was to cost them dearly as the ball found Enniscorthy’s number 6 who, from inside the Dundalk 22 line, found himself free and ran to the corner to score. The conversion was missed but Enniscorthy now led 18–14 on 45 minute mark.
Dundalk really didn’t start the second half at all well as again Enniscorthy attacked on 50 minutes. The number 10 found a gap and exploited the space he found to sprint down the pitch and link with his winger who scored in the corner. The convertion was again missed, leaving the score 23-14 in favour of the home side.
After some strong, and blunt talking by captain Thomas Campbell and coach Ene Afa ‘atau, Dundalk started to play again but on 57 minutes a late tackle by Stephen Murphy found him getting a yellow card.
However, this only seemed to bring the Dundalk team together as they kept the pressure on Enniscorthy and they were awarded a penalty on 65 minutes from which full back Murphy closed the gap to six points, 17-23. However this proved to be the final score of the game.
Dundalk finished well, playing all the rugby and will be disappointed with only coming away with a losing bonus point. They dominated this encounter for vast periods and only for a few mistakes at crucial times would certainly have travelled the long distance home with the points in the bag.
The next match is at home on November 3 against Newbridge, who are in second position on the league table. Man of the match was Robert Farrell whose strong carrying and great work in the scrum earned him this award.
DUNDALK RFC: U Murphy, R Sheilds, R Williams, A Fa’atau, J Williams, T Campbell, R Farrell, J Gray, C Brannigan, S Crawford, C Sloan, E Fa’atau, S Martin, GWhately, E Boyle. Subs: J Smith, D Sloan, P Kelly.