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Tullow Under-16s Take All-Ireland Spoils After Ten-Try Thriller

Tullow Under-16s Take All-Ireland Spoils After Ten-Try Thriller

Tullow captain Cian Leonard received the IRFU Under-16 All-Ireland Cup from IRFU Youth Rugby Committee chairman Michael Cunningham following the Carlow club’s excellent 34-27 final victory over a determined Ennis side.


TULLOW UNDER-16s 34 ENNIS UNDER-16s 27, Mullingar RFC
Scorers: Tullow: Jack Hanlon 2, Billy Lawlor 2, Brian Keogh; Cons: Dylan Doyle 3; Pen: Dylan Doyle
Ennis: Tries: Darragh O’Callaghan, Colm Kearney 2, Tony Butler 2; Cons: Ethan Coughlin

HT: Tullow 20 Ennis 10

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Mullingar Rugby Club’s superb 4G pitch played host to last Saturday’s action-packed Under-16 All-Ireland decider which Tullow led from start to finish, but they were pushed all the way by Ennis, who were first-time winners of the Pan Munster Cup this season.

Tullow’s strong-running winger Jack Hanlon ensured a dream start for his side with a third minute try, reaching over in the left corner to make it 5-0 after they had controlled possession straight from the kick-off. They had the better of the early exchanges and threatened to score again just a few minutes later.

However, an unconverted try had Ennis level by the eighth minute, flanker Darragh O’Callaghan using his strength to muscle his way over despite the presence of several defenders. There was good work by Ryan Murphy, Ethan Coughlin and captain Tony Butler in the build-up.

Full-back Billy Lawlor proved an elusive runner for the Leinster champions, joining the attack in timely fashion and finishing the first half with two tries which had Tullow 20-10 in front. Scrum half Dylan Doyle also landed a penalty and a conversion, with one of his other conversion attempts coming back off the crossbar.

In between, Lawlor’s opposite number Colm Kearney crossed out wide for the Clare club’s second try, which was created by the strong carrying of the forwards in midfield. Nonetheless, the Tullow pack were prospering from the lion’s share of possession and their backs, marshalled by skipper Cian Leonard, were finishing their chances.

Ennis had the momentum when play resumed, the second half barely a minute old when skipper Butler’s break led to full-back Kearney completing his brace and scrum half Coughlin’s successful conversion made it a three-point game (20-17).

With number 8 Conor Moloney consistently making ground with his carries, Ennis were soon back in scoring range but Tullow countered superbly and Hanlon could not caught as he ran in his team’s fourth try. Doyle’s conversion restored the 10-point advantage.

Butler brilliantly halved the deficit with a jinking run to outfox the Tullow defence and make it 27-22. Again though, Ivan Cooper’s eventual victors always seemed to have the answers, this time some tremendous work and carrying by the Tullow forwards ended with prop Brian Keogh touching down and Doyle adding the extras.

Ennis showed their battling qualities, spirit and no end of skill in bagging a fifth try of their own, talismanic out-half Butler the scorer to give them some late hope in the dying minutes. They were close to the Tullow 22 when their final attack broke down, allowing Leonard and his team-mates to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

Their coach Cooper was delighted with the efforts of his entire squad against very tough opponents in Ennis, saying: “It was a great spectacle of rugby for Under-16s by two very talented and very committed sides. It shows how club youth rugby in Ireland is in a very good place at the moment.”

Speaking to Clare FM afterwards, Ennis U-16 boss Ken Butler said: “Just a small bit disappointed…we didn’t get off to a good start and we were on the back foot. All credit to Tullow, they’re a brilliant team, a fantastic team. But i’m very proud of our lads, we said after the Munster (title) that anything we got after this was going to be a bonus.

“i’m delighted with the performance, a few things just didn’t go our way. All credit to the lads and Tullow and especially the crowd, it’s a great credit to the whole club, the turnout we got today was just fantastic and I’m really grateful for that.

“We never gave up, we fought to the bitter end. they went ahead, we came back, they went ahead, we came back. It could have gone either way. These players have a great future, the one statement that was made on the pitch afterwards was that we’d be back here in two years’ time (to play in the U-18 All-Ireland final).”

TULLOW: Billy Lawlor; Jack Hanlon, Cian Leonard (capt), Padhraic Bolger, Stuart Power; Jamie Cooper, Dylan Doyle; Brian Keogh, Bailey Sharpe, Jordan Hennessy, Cian Byrne, Pat Hickey, Diarmuid Deacon, Conor Duffy, Des McDonald.

Replacements: Sean McGrath, Sam Hogan, Sean Byrne, Troy Kinch Randall, Jake Dore, Cooper Sharpe, Briac Adams, Tadhg McCarthy Griffin.

ENNIS: Colm Kearney; Jason Downes, Brian Cowley Hayes, Sean Keane, Sean McGrath; Tony Butler (capt), Ethan Coughlin; Bence Benko, Joseph Keane, Ryan Murphy, Brian Barry, Eoghan Hahessy, Darragh O’Callaghan, Daniel Fogarty, Conor Moloney.

Replacements: Dean McInerney, Denis Vaughan, Eoin Cullinane, Hope Omorodion, Patrick Browne, Shane Punch, Tommy Garrihy, Ben Geraghty.

Referee: Jason Cairns (IRFU)