Longford used the home advantage of playing at CPL Park to great effect to grab three points and not concede a loser bonus point to put themselves in third position in Division 1B with four games to play.
The visit of Wicklow on Sunday last had an added significance as they were the first team to beat Longford earlier in the season. It took Longford a while to get their mojo working after that defeat, but a couple of victories before Christmas got them back on track.
This was a real dour post Christmas top of the table dogfight. The poor weather made this a difficult game for both sides. The downpour overnight made the going heavy and mitigated against any flair from the backline.
It continued throughout the game and made handling very hard. This was not a day for running rugby and both packs got to see plenty of the ball. Wicklow have a good side and were strong in the pack where it meant the most on the day, but an intelligent and staunch show of force by Longford was enough to win out on the day.
The visitors were bereft of ideas out the back and Longford had the measure of them defensively. Even in the dying minutes when all hands were on deck the men from Ashtown Lane still did not look like they were going to break the home side down.
It was not a great start for Longford as they missed two penalties early on. The conditions were treacherous with Colm Glynn missing the first and Barry Trueick the second. The match was into the second quarter when the referee awarded a penalty from a kickable position. Glynn put the conditions aside and knocked over to put the home side 3-0 up.
The game slogged along to the end of the first half with both sides struggling with each other and the conditions and Longford’s single score advantage was all that troubled the scorekeeper in the first period.
Longford are well aware of the problems posed by letting a team back in after half-time and with this to the forefront of the mind they pressed from the restart. An early scrum on the ‘22 was carried short, the ball was recycled then passed wide to Glynn. The out half had the traction control switched on and covered 15 metres before crashing over with a couple of passengers for the first and only try of the game. Glynn added the conversion to leave it 10-0 just five minutes into the second half.
Wicklow ratcheted up the intensity in an attempt to wrestle away Longford’s lead. In the next thirty minutes the home side would have two men sent to the sin bin. The carding of James O’Connell and Benny McManus meant that Longford played much of the remainder of the game with 14 men.
The team really showed their defensive prowess in the closing twenty of the game to overcome the numerical disadvantage and hold the Wicklow onslaught at bay. To compound the frustration of the visitors Barry Trueick knocked over a long range penalty in the difficult conditions to move Longford up to 13-0 with about 10 left to play.
The closing moments of the game were typified by an outstanding aggressive defence from Longford. Wicklow were within touching distance of the home line, but tenacity and discipline repelled attack after attack as the visitors failed to make the additional man count.
Longford put in a strong performance across the board, but particular plaudits must go to the front row of Gilligan, Keith and Duffy who put in an epic day’s work and the front row replacements who kept up the high standard. Clifford Richardson put in another storming performance and the back row put in a lot of effort.
Neal Farrell’s passing in such difficult conditions was pin point and Colm Glynn’s control of the game was superb. James O’ Connell’s defensive shift was very good, even if the ref though it was a bit too enthusiastic.
Longford take to the road next week for a chance at getting back the points they gifted Tullow earlier in the season. Their previous encounter show that Longford have the ability to end the Carlow side’s unbeaten record. However any trip to the Black Gate is going to be tough.
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, B McManus, F McGlade, I Farrell.