Final result: Longford 20 – Edenderry 20
Longford Performance XV and Edenderry RFC put on a spectacular display of junior rugby at CPL Park at the Demesne on Sunday when the sides concluded a thrilling encounter with a last minute penalty to tie the game up 20-20.
Although it would be fair to say that Longford spent 75 minutes trying to repair the damage of a five minutes lack of concentration, this would overlook the extraordinary defending that the visiting Offaly men put in. A disastrous start commenced with a penalty just after kick off that was converted by the visiting outhalf Steve Cumming. From the next restart a loss of footing, a hack ball and dash to the line saw Edenderry winger, Gavin Murray, add to his side’s haul before the spectators had time to settle into their positions.
As the home team regrouped Cummins converted to put his side 00-10 up with not quite four minutes gone. Longford then started to control possession and steadily plot a course to the visitors half. The progress was slow as they tested a defence that was consistent and reliable.
The first scoring opportunity for the men in black came in the 14th minute when a forty plus metre penalty saw Colm Glynn take his first pop at the posts. The tacky conditions prevented the kicker from getting a good strike on the ball and the effort fell just short.
Longford continued to keep possession of the ball. However the effective ‘Derry defence exasperated the home side’s efforts. A frustrated chip through was easily grounded, but the 22 drop out was taken with a chaser in front and the home team had a scrum on the 22. Longford went wide with the ball from the scrum and Daniel McHugh looked like he may round the defences, but the visitors managed to bundle him into touch.
With 35 minutes gone the Edenderry number eight got a wee break from the action when a late hit on scrumhalf Neal Farrell saw him banished to the bin. The scrumhalf’s injury was such that he would take no further part in the contest.
With the half time break approaching Benny McManus put in a scintillating line break and run, covering 25 metres before three players took him down inside the 22. The territorial advantage gained was converted to the scoreboard by Glynn when a ruck infringement saw the ref’s arm raised.
There were now 37 minutes gone the score card read 03-10. It was Glynn’s quick thinking that shortened the gap further. Another wonderful break by McManus got past the Offaly men, once behind Shane Rodgers and Cormac Hughes stole more yards. Glynn saw that momentary disarray of the visitors and a cross field kick found Daniel McHugh who offloaded to captain Ciaran Kennedy who grounded to sorted the gap.
Glynn then levelled it up with a most difficult kick and the score at the break read 10-10. Longford’s love of holding possession continued after the break. Some towing and froing saw a very threatening attack by the visiting full back just contained by a Killian Bartley tackle and Longford then spending a long period in the ‘Derry 22.
More breaks by McManus and sub Ruadhán McDonnell pressed the territorial advantage. However the visitors got the next score when during a brief jaunt inside the Longford half a tardy defender was pinged for offside and Cummins banged over the resultant penalty to leave it 10-13 with 68 minutes gone.
Longford worked very hard to come up with a reply. Again the Offaly men’s mean defending looked rock solid as Longford sawed left and right to find a chink. An eight minute spell deep in the visitors half finally yielded the required result when Kevin Rodgers powered over to get Longford a second try. Glynn’s add made it 17-13.
The four minute switch off at the start of the first half got was rounded up to five at the restart. First an unfortunate knock on, then a quick pick from the back of the scrum was flashed through the back before winger Willie Grooms put in an electric run past the Longford defences to ground in the very corner. With the ball right on the touch line Cummins clipped over to leave it 17-20.
The captain was told that three minutes remained, but with the length of time it took to build the two Longford tries from the stands it seem scarcely possibly to bridge the gap. ‘Derry won the restart and commenced a game of keep ball. However a magnificent rip saw Longford back in the attack.
Almost immediately there was an infringement and although it looked kickable the ref was asked it there was time for the line out. He indicated there was. The corner was kicked to and a quick ball off the top was pushed forward. The probing commenced. The tension was palpable. Longford poked and poked to find the hole, but none was apparent.
When the second penalty came the posts were pointed to and the crowd held their breath. Sticky conditions made no difference to Glynn and the outhalf clipped the ball over and levelled the game as the ref blew it up.
There were some immense performance by both teams, Longford back row of Barry Steward, Derek Farrell and Paul Gallogly all put in mammoth shifts. While Anthony Hughes, Dylan Quinn, Hughbie Connolly and Justin Ford all earned their salt.
Streamstown beckons next Sunday as Longford travel to take on Roscrea. Last October the men in black comprehensively defeated Roscrea on their visit to CPL Park. The Tipp men will be hoping to return the favour this time out, but the strong Longford team is growing in confidence as the season progresses.