A lack of decisiveness and a second half in which every referee decision seemed to strangle Longford’s momentum made this feel like less of a victory than it should have. This was a good triumph away to Portlaoise on Sunday last but the loss of that tantalising four try bonus point that had seemed inevitable after 17 minutes will be one that Longford may yet rue.
Portlaoise may be propping up the bottom of the table, but the home side’s large mobile pack meant that the trip to Togher could have been a lot worse for Longford. The visitors had a dream opening twenty in which they decimated the home side three times leaving an hour to find the fourth try for the vital bonus point.
Longford got off to a great start. With just three minutes on the clock a short line-out saw the ball given to out half Colin Glynn who sliced through the Portlaoise line to go over under the posts. Glynn’s quick thinking caught the home side napping and he added insult to the injury by tacking on two for the conversion.
Three more minutes had elapsed when Longford were at it again. After great work by the pack the ball was kicked through. Paul Gallogly picked the ball up at pace and instigate a flowing movement that concluded with Garry Greene going over in the corner for Longford’s second leaving the score at 12-0. The difficult angle and the biting wind impeded the conversion.
Ten minutes later, with just over a quarter of an hour gone, the rapier like precision of the Longford attack again cut through the Portlaoise defence. This time interplay between Kevin Coffey and Maugaluto Palu created an opening in the home side that Dermot McGlade used his pace to exploit. McGlade went over for Longford’s third try with only 17 minutes on the clock. Glynn added the conversion and Longford were 19 points clear and looking for the bonus.
However Portlaoise had other plans. It took them only four minutes to get a reply. The visitors had switched off for only a moment and the Laois men used their muscle to get a score on the board.
In the second half the bitter cold played a part. Numb hands hampered the control of the ball in passing and holding. But Longford looked like they had done the necessary ten minutes in when Glynn appeared to make the perfect decision with a pop pass to opened the Portlaoise defence up for Gallogly. As the captain was going to ground the ball the ref called him back for what he saw as crossing.
Portlaoise capitalised on this and when they found themselves inside the Longford 22 they took advantage of a two man overlap to score the second and leave the score at 19-10. The remainder of the game was spent going from penalty to scrum.
In the closing minutes it looked like Portlaoise were destined to get their losing bonus point when they used the formidable brawn of their pack to blast at the Longford line. But in a magnificent display of tackling technique the visitors withstood onslaught after onslaught. The Longford team put in some great performances with tackling from Hubie Connolly and Niall Farrell as well as the ball carrying of Benny McCarthy, Andy Hall and John Duffy.
LONGFORD: K Coffey, R Keith, J Duffy, A Hall, B McManus, P Gallogly, M Palu, H Connolly, N Farrell, C Glynn, J O’Connell, G Greene, P Foy, D McGlade, C Kennedy.
Replacements: D Quinn, M Murphy, D Farrell, S Coy, G Johnston.