As Portarlington RFC enter a new phase in their development following the retirement of some key players and the promotion of Leinster Junior player Ross Doyle to head coach, they headed to Cill Dara last Thursday night and left with a confidence building victory under their belts.
After a scrappy opening with both sides coming to terms with extremely windy conditions, Port opened the scoring when they marched down the pitch with a series of accurate phases involving both backs and forwards before exploiting a gap in their hosts defence.
A well timed pass from Paul Mannion allowed powerful player/coach Doyle to burst through and score under the posts. The score was then converted by back row player Chris Ryan and Port led 7-0.
Both sides enjoyed periods of possession with Cill Dara looking best placed to score next but an incredibly resilient defence effort from the visitors kept them out.
This will probably be the aspect of the game that will best please Doyle as he saw the club’s U-19 players contributing to that defence and showing no signs of fear or naivety as they made the step up to senior rugby. A well struck Chris Ryan penalty saw Portarlington take a 10-0 lead into the break.
In the second half, Cill Dara had the benefit of the strong wind in their backs and so the Port defence had to soak up more pressure.
The Kildare men turned down some kickable penalties as they went in search of a try but they simply couldn’t find a way through the visitor’s defence and eventually they decided to take a kick at the posts and successfully reduced the gap to 7 points.
In the closing moments Cill Dara finally penetrated the Port defence and looked certain to score the equalising try only for the impressive Gearóid Kennedy to make a brilliant last ditch tackle just a yard short of the line. Cill Dara were penalised for a double movement and the Laois side cleared their lines and held out for a well deserved victory.
Coach Ross Doyle was clearly delighted with the collective effort saying, “this was a squad performance tonight. We used 29 players and nobody looked out of place. At one stage we had six U19s in our pack and they drove the Cill Dara scrum backwards. If we can get the best out of our younger players and our experienced players then we can really push on this season.”