After contrasting seasons, Portarlington and Carlow found themselves in this year’s Division 1B and 2A promotion/relegation play-off in Athy Rugby Club.
Rugby Div 1B/2A Promotion/Relegation Playoff
The game started off with some predictably nervous passages of play and Carlow got a dream start when a kick through bounced awkwardly and flat-footed the Port’ defence allowing the Division 2A side to hack though for a fortunate opening try.
The 7-0 lead allowed them to settle first and the next 20 minutes were played in Portarlington territory. However, their defence soaked up the pressure and Carlow failed to add to that early score in the first half.
The Laois outfit then dominated for a fifteen minute period before the break. Their superiority was rewarded when Ronan Mannion chased down a Millie Mulhall kick. He made a crunching tackle that pressurised the Carlow defence and Kieran Hyland confidently slotted the resulting penalty.
Just before the break the impressive Diarmuid Kennedy made a powerful break from half way after Carlow overthrew a line-out ball which the centre collected at pace. When he was eventually tackled under the posts, a cynical foul from the Carlow full back led to a penalty that Hyland duly converted to leave the score at 7-6.
After the break Portarlington took the lead for the first time when Declan Hennessy successfully chased down the Mulhall restart. Carlow were again penalised at the resulting breakdown and Hyland dissected the posts with his kick.
However, the lead didn’t last long with Port’ conceding penalties on 46 and 51 minutes allowing Carlow to take a 13-9 lead. Hyland added another penalty to bring Port’ back to within a point again but despite some entertaining open play, neither side added to their tallies in the final quarter of the game. Although the margin of victory was as narrow as possible, Carlow dominated the set pieces which took pressure of their defence and ultimately this is what won the day for them.
Portarlington will be disappointed to lose this encounter coming off the back of some positive recent results but Carlow will feel encouraged at the way that they contained a side who were by now means out of their depth in Division 1B and only found themselves in this playoff as a result of an ill timed injury crisis at a crucial time of the season.
Port’ will look to the Town’s Plate for consolation next week as they hope to finish a tough season on a high.