Cup fever was in the air last weekend as Portarlington travelled to holders Tullamore for their Towns Cup first round clash.
The game was played in severe conditions as a strong wind, icy temperatures and heavy showers of hail and snow made handling extremely difficult. It was a day when forwards would need to take on much of the possession and when scoring chances would need to be taken.
Ultimately the more powerful Tullamore pack’s AIL experience made the difference and in a game with a high scrum count, that power mattered more than it would usually.
In the early stages, Port’s dynamic flanker Joander Brazon made a good break kicking the ball towards the Tullamore try line but when he appeared to be tackled without the ball, the referee allowed play to continue and Tullamore cleared their lines. Shortly after the visitors were awarded a penalty and out half Kieran Hyland split the posts to give the Laois side a 3-0 lead.
Port’ had the next chance to score as Tullamore were penalised for a high tackle on their own 22 but this time Hyland couldn’t convert on 17 minutes.
The momentum started to swing towards the home side then as their pack put pressure on their counterparts at scrum time but the Port’ defence held out as they contested well at the breakdown. However, on the half hour Tullamore were awarded a penalty which Odhran McIntyre slotted to draw level. .
Tullamore continued to have the best of possession and territory but they never looked like penetrating the Portarlington defence which showed good discipline and patience. That patience was rewarded as they gained some good possession in their opponents half towards the end of the first period. Some strong running from Mark Petriu, Ross Doyle and Stephen Mulhall pressurised the Offaly side’s defence and the inevitable penalty followed however Hyland’s kick came up short and the teams were tied at half time.
Tullamore took the lead with a 46th minute penalty and then scored from their first real try scoring chance on 57 minutes as the Portarlington defence was finally breached making the score 11-3. As conditions worsened the game became more broken with handling errors on both sides of the ball. The home side were then given an opportunity to stretch their lead further but McIntyre’s kick struck the crossbar. His team mates were first to react to the loose ball but again the Port’ defence showed resilience as they turned possession over and cleared the danger.
Portarlington badly needed to score next and centre Stephen Mulhall showed good urgency as he took a quick penalty and good pressure led to a kickable penalty. Hyland obliged and there was only a score between the sides.
On 75 minutes a well placed kick from Hyland forced Tullamore on the back foot and a brilliant choke tackle from Ross Doyle led to a Port’ scrum on their opponents 22. From the scrum however, a loose pass was intercepted and the chance was lost. Tullamore continued to hold out despite good pressure and will advance to round 2.
Tullamore: Eamonn Bracken, Edward Brady, Colin Malone, Donal Milne, Michael Tormey, Mark Kennedy, Kevin Browne, Robert Conor, Jarleth Glynn, Odhran McIntyre, Jeffrey Cuskelly, Cormac Moloney, John Brophy, Darragh Coughlan, Aonghus O’Donovan.
Portarlington: Cathal Bannon, Declan Hennessy, Eoin Cuddy, Alex Mihajlovic, Chris Ryan, Diarmuid Kennedy, Joander Brazon, Mark Petriu, James Hyland, Kieran Hyland, Ronan Mannion, Stephen Mulhall, Ross Doyle, Jason Moore, Denis Boland.