Rugby - Leinster League Division 1B

Longford’s tumble down the table continued on Sunday last when the persistence of Portarlington paid off when they scored a try and conversion deep in injury time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the lead up to this encounter Longford knew that this away fixture against the Laois side would be a difficult tie. The opposition were one point ahead of Longford in the table and had been showing steady progress in their last few encounters after initially struggling to find their feet having come up from Division 2A.

Longford were hoping to exact revenge on ‘Port for the defeat in the Provincial Towns Plate semi-final back in April. Since losing to Wicklow in mid-October the visitor have gone from being early season promotion contenders to propping up the lower end of the table. Longford would have been targeting this game in Lea Road as an opportunity to get back to winning ways.

In the early stages of the game it looked as if this would be the case. All the initial threats came from the visitors. They finally reaped the rewards for this in the 17th minute when Longford executed a great play that spanned the width of the field before Hubie Connolly finished off a move that displayed great interaction between the backs and forwards. David Fagan neatly converted the afters.

The clock had yet to strike 20 minutes when the visitors were at it again. Again it was a superb example of team play. The ball was taken the length of the field before David Fagan touched down for Longford’s second and a score of 12-0. It looked like it was all going the way of the men in black and the ability to turn pressure into points had finally returned after a four week hiatus.

Longford were well on top in all facets of the game, particularly the scrum. However as the 40 minutes elapsed and injury time was entered Longford’s dip in concentration returned and they were punished for it. Portarlington powered through in a scrum, stole the advantage presented on the blind-side, a couple of forwards punched through before it was played out wide to the winger who grounded in the corner. Kicker David Murphy did what he does so well and his conversion left the gap at just five on a score of 12-7 to the visitors.

Longford had switched off mentally as the referee played on to make up the time lost when Garry Greene’s injury had stopped play. That proved a dire mistake as the ruthless Laois side punished the dip in concentration. A penalty resulted in the ball being lost, a kick deep was run out of defence, but the full back was caught without cover, the penalty for not releasing was tapped quickly and a forward scored the try which left the sides deadlocked at 12-12.

Longford’s half-time talk got the heads back on and a scrum on the left hand side started some good forward momentum as ten minutes of the second half had elapsed. The Portarlington pack were pushed back, a pass wide to Ciaran Kennedy saw the full back go over for Longford’s third try.

Shortly after ‘Port got a kickable penalty and the conversion by Murphy left it at 15-17. The game was played at a fierce tempo as both teams tried to put the other away. Longford got another break when a penalty inside the home side’s half presented Colm Glynn with a kicking opportunity with seven minutes left. Glynn’s compass was spot on and the three points filled out the Longford score to 20 to Portarlington’s 15.

The 40 minute mark in the second half came and went. The stoppage time had built up in the second period was running down. As the clock played out Portarlington set up shop on the Longford five metre line. Longford put in some great tackles and the defensive line was immense. However the pressure finally took its toll and the home side went over in the last play of the game.

Kicker David Murphy completed an impressive day of kicking by knocking over the conversion from out wide to grab all three points with the last kick of the game. Heartbreak for Longford in Lea Road as again they are punished in the closing stages of a game. But still a good performance by Longford, up 100% on last week. Longford had an outstanding performance by Barry Stewart. Captain Derek Farrell also put in his usual great display and the front row scrummaged very well.

After dropping down to sixth position Longford will be looking at the table and wondering where it went wrong. Tullow’s win on Sunday means that they have a perfect record. Longford lost out to Tullow by seven points at CPL Park in a game that could have gone their way. The Carlow side have beaten every other team by at least 20 points.

Clondalkin’s win over Ashbourne pushed them ahead of Longford and the Dubliners visit CPL Park on Sunday next. Having thrown away a lot of points in the last four weeks Longford are in need of something to reignite their season.

A big turnout from the home support is something that will be very much needed next Sunday at CPL Park for the Clondalkin game. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.

LONGFORD: John Duffy, Hubie Connolly, Dylan Quinn, Clifford Richardson, Barry Stewart, Brendan Fagan, Paul Gallogly, Derek Farrell, Neal Farrell, Colm Glynn, David Fagan, James O’Connor, Garry Greene, Jimmy Connolly, Ciaran Kennedy.

Replacements: Barry Trueick, Gary Rowan, Mick Murphy, Ronan Keith.