Longford suffered defeat against the league leaders Tullow at the Co Carlow venue on Sunday last. The away side’s inability to bring any points home from the Black Gate means that they are now tied in third place with Wicklow and Monkstown and all three are eight behind Clondalkin.
Although the surface looked pristine it began to cut up soon after the start as the downpour of the last few days made it very soft. Though the rain held off for the game the going was very soft and the slick conditions made the handling of the ball very difficult.
Longford employed a quick off loading game right from the start in an effort to crack this undefeated Carlow side. From the off Tullow were on the back foot, the visitor’s determination to seek recompense from the points they let slip in the home fixture back in October was clear for all to see.
Longford’s forwards and backs combined very well as the game progressed. An early foray saw the ball go the full length of the pitch through eight pairs of hands before Barry Stewart was illegally halted just metres short of the line.
With the game just ten minutes old the penalty that resulted gave the visitors a chance to get the scoreboard ticking. Colm Glynn’s conversion gave Longford the first three points of the game. The men in black and white continued the quick offloading that was so effective in the opening ten minutes but gradually Tullow got more into the game.
The Carlow side used their home knowledge of their ground to its best advantage to get good field position. Leinster Academy full-back William O’Brien and wing Daniel O’Brien played with great awareness and were effective in relieving the pressure being heaped on by Longford.
Longford did not give much away easy and it was a long range kick that tied matters up. As the score board levelled so did the contest. It was an even tug of war as the sides struggled to assert dominance. Both Clifford Richardson and Barry Stewart were in tremendous form for Longford.
But then Tullow tacked on a penalty to put them ahead 6-3. With ten minutes to the break Tullow put together a fine move from a set piece that impressed even the most die hard Longford fans.
The full back came into the line at a clever angle and cut the Longford defence open before going over for the first try. The conversion missed left it 11-3 where it stayed to the break.
Longford resumed in the second half with much of the fire that they had shown in the early part of the game. They kept the Carlow side pinned in their own half and hammered at them relentlessly. However playing very good rugby was just not enough to break through this rock solid Tullow defence.
Longford were awarded five kickable penalties in this period, but the Gods were frowning as the visitors hit the posts twice and watched the other three drift wide. When the home side were reduced to 13 men thanks to two infringements, one rapidly following the other, it looked as if Longford must surely break the lines. However a combination of the cementing of the Carlow defence and handling errors brought on by over enthusiasm prevented the visitors crossing the line.
With five minutes left on the clock Tullow got into the Longford half on a rare second half visit. Showing the quality that has them at the top of the table with an unbeaten record they pushed the ball out wide and ran over a try. The conversion left it 18-3. To say that this flattered the home side is an understatement.
The back five of Longford’s pack gave a great account of themselves in this game and the front row also put in a good shift. This was the toughest contest that this vaunted Tullow pack have experienced. Neal Farrell followed up last week’s great game with another fine performance in the black and white.
Next weekend’s visit of Ashbourne to CPL Park is a big deal and Longford who will want a good crowd to view the contest. With three vital fixtures left the home support will be the 16th man in this game.
LONGFORD: B Gilligan, R Keith, J Duffy, B Stewart, C Richardson, B Fagan, D Farrell, P Gallogly, N Farrell, C Glynn, B Trueick, J O’Connell, J Connolly, G McDermott, C Kennedy.
Replacements: D Quinn, P Mimnagh, M Murphy, F McGlade, I Farrell.