It was another case of close but no cigar for Longford when they succumbed to a 13 points to 11 defeat to Tullow writes Tommy Butler.
In a similar fashion to the opening match of the season where Longford and Tullow fought out a draw in torrential conditions, there was little to separate the sides in CPL Park today.
The match could be pivotal in the battle for second place and possible promotion and one in which Longford will rue not converting five good line breaks into scores.
The majority of the match was played between both teams 22s, with handling errors and turnovers punctuating the match.
Aggressive press defences were applied by both sides, which made attack seem claustrophobic.
Tullow stuck to their guns for most of the match with aggressive defence, close in carries and putting the boot to the ball, where Longford looked to go wide at every opportunity often slipping the ball behind the first attacker, in an attempt to create more space.
The match started off at a frantic pace with both sides keen to impose their games. Tullow managed to get an early penalty, which was knocked between the posts to give them a 0-3 lead.
Although Tullow enjoyed their fair share of possession, it was Longford who were creating most of the chances with five clean line breaks by the likes of Ian McCormack, Barry Stewart and Kieran O’Gorman but time and again a Longford handling error or last ditch defence enabled Tullow to clear their lines and relieve the pressure.
The killer blow just could not be landed by Longford with knock-ons and bad decision making scuppering the hard fought pressure.
Longford especially dominated the last ten minutes of the first half and Tullow were glad to see the half time whistle with their three point lead intact.
Longford continued the pressure from the kick-off and got back on level terms after five minutes from a Ryan McHugh penalty.
Tullow were very street wise in defence all day and were content to give away a penalty if Longford threatened their line.
Disaster then struck for Longford from the restart as Tullow secured their first line break of the game, worked it left to right and then back to the left again, with their winger crossing in the left hand corner.
This left a difficult conversion attempt, but one which was well converted, although it did not look like it came off the boot as planned.
So after dominating large parts of the match, they now had it all to do down 03-10.
15 minutes after the restart, another promising Longford move was halted by the concession of a Tullow penalty, with Ryan McHugh bringing Longford within four of the away side.
Longford huffed and puffed for the next 10 minutes but their hands let them down just as something promising looked to be in the offing.
The match looked like it might have turned in Longford’s favour when a few changes to the scrum resulted in Longford winning a penalty by pushing Tullow off their own ball.
Longford kicked the ball to the corner twice and both times Tullow infringed at the maul.
The accumulating penalty count finally saw the referee go to his pocket and leave Tullow with only 14 men with about ten minutes to go.
Longford chose to back their scrum dominance against 14 men and it was proven correct with No.8 Kolo Kiripati crashing over on the right, unfortunately the conversion attempt was narrowly wide, but Longford took the lead for the first time in the match 11-10.
With eight minutes left on the clock Longford looked to bunker down and lock their defense tight.
However, the bunker was breached by a Tullow penalty with five minutes to go to leave them with a two point deficit to overcome and the clock ticking down.
Unfortunately, although Longford gave it their all, it proved to be a bridge too far and they had to settle with just a losing bonus point for the second week in a row and a loss to one of their main promotion rivals.
It has been a rocky two weeks for the J1 XV with back to back defeats to Clondalkin and Tullow.
What is even more unusual is that CPL Park is normally a fortress for the side.
Glenn Baskett and his charges now turn their attention to their final league match of 2019 away to bottom side DLSP.
Longford: P O’Farrell, H Connolly, D Quinn, F Davis, B McManus, B Stewart, K O’Gorman, K Kiripati, R McHugh, D McHugh, J McGowan, C Glynn, G Bester, C Hughes, I McCormack, L Brady, P Dardis, D Geelan, A Beirne, F McGowan.