The 2023 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup second round produced a couple of edge-of-the-seat thrillers on Sunday.

Enniscorthy 31 Portlaoise 19 

Enniscorthy took a big lead before repelling a tremendous Portlaoise recovery at Alcast Park.

Full-back Kevin O’Connor, out-half Fiacra Hourihane and flanker Mikey McVeigh, from a tap penalty, punched in tries as the home side went 25 points up in 20 minutes.

In a game of swinging fortunes, play was halted for an injury and the match moved to the second pitch where Portlaoise took over completely.

A brace of tries by number eight Ross Cooper and another from winger Killian Creed had them 25-19 at half-time.

The Laois club had taken over at this point, camping out in the opposition’s half without being able to press home their domination for much of the second forty.

It was left to ‘Scorthy to come clear for Hourihane to land two fourth-quarter penalties.

Scorers – Enniscorthy: F Hourihane, try, 3 pens, con; K O’Connor, M McVeigh, K Creed try each. Portlaoise: R Cooper 2 tries; M Mulally try, 2 cons.


County Carlow 57 New Ross 13

Carlow comfortably eased into the last eight at Oak Park on Sunday.

The Wexford club was competitive in the opening half, bouncing back from an early deficit as Carlow’s Callum Murphy and Sean Quinlan burst over for a 12-point lead in as many minutes.

A try by flanker James Fitzgerald and accurate goal-kicking from out-half David Thorpe had New Ross 13-12 ahead in the 29th minute.

Murphy pounced for his second for Crotty to convert to give Carlow a 19-13 advantage at the break with the strong wind to come in their backs.

The relentless drive of Carlow was soon exposing holes in the New Ross defence. It wasn’t long before the first of half-a-dozen tries arrived.

Evan Gordon, Crotty, Jeff McDermott, Quinlan, Caomhan Brennan and Crotty again all crossed as Carlow ran away with the game.

Scorers – County Carlow:  D Crotty 2 tries, 6 cons; C Murphy, S Quinlan 2 tries each; E Gordon, JMcDermott, C Brennan try each. New Ross: J Fitzgerald try; D Thorpe 2 pens, con.


Cill Dara 12 Wicklow 11

Senan Brannock rose to the challenge to kick late, winning points for Cill Dara at Silken Thomas Park.

The home side started with great intent, winning a penalty just outside the 22 for Bryn Moore to slot the points.

For all the territory, they only led 9-6 with further penalties from Moore against two from Wicklow full-back Niall Earls.

On the half-hour, centre Cian Reynolds grabbed an interception to just about outpace cover to give Wicklow the lead.

Outstanding defence by the brilliant Paudy Wall, who turned over two balls, prevented the visitors from building on their lead.

Defences ruled the roost in the second-half, Cill Dara waiting until the 76th minute for 19-year-old Brannock to strike the winning points.

Scorers – Cill Dara: B Moore 3 pens; S Brannock pen. Wicklow: C Reynolds try; N Earls 2 pens.


Tullamore 31 Skerries 19

A fast start by Tullamore was decisive in Spollanstown.

Captain Cormac Moloney got the ball rolling with the opening try and veteran scrum-half Aaron Deverell sniped from the back of a ruck for the second.

It got even better when centre Cathal Farrell broke a number of tackles for the third, Deverell slotting the three conversions and a penalty for 24-0 by the 26th minute.

Skerries finally made headway through their pack and the skills of fly-half Darragh Lownes,

Ryan Kiernan breaking through for Lownes to convert or 24-7 at the break.

There was further reason for optimism as Paddy Finn picked up two tries to close the gap.

The work rate of hooker Kelvin Browne was inspirational as full-back Eoghan Hickey’s touchdown provided further fuel for the Offaly club.

The North Dublin club came on strong in the last 25 minutes, forcing Tullamore into a desperate rearguard action.

Scorers – Tullamore: A Deverell try, pen, 3 cons; C Moloney, C Farrell, E Hickey try each. Skerries: P Finn 2 tries; R Kiernan try; D Lownes 2 cons.


Kilkenny 29 Ashbourne 6

The holders Kilkenny came through in impressive fashion.

It was nip and tuck in a prolonged feeling-out process, veteran number eight David O’Connor crashing over for an unconverted try in the 28th minute.

The Ashbourne set-piece was working well enough to give Gavin Kennedy the chance to make it 5-3 from a penalty at half-time.

They even moved in front from Kennedy’s second shot in the 47th minute in what was turning into a real battle.

At this point, the home side started to take a grip on the proceedings from centre Hugh Corkery’s penalty and a converted try by out-half Jake McDonald for 15-6 in the 56th minute.

It was in the final quarter that Kilkenny pressed home their advantage through tries by prop Brian Howe and wing Ioan Lewis.

Scorers – Kilkenny – D O’Connor, J McDonald, B Howe, I Lewis try each; H Corkery pen, 3 cons. Ashbourne – G Kennedy 2 pens.


Tullow 38 Boyne 36

Boyne could not sustain a lightning start in a back-and-forth thriller at Blackgates.

They must have felt good about their chances when Kevin McCleary, Rory Hickey and Robbie Vallejo all pierced the cover for Karl Keogh’s conversion to have them 21 points up.

It was from there, however, that Tullow moved into top gear, running up 35 points without reply to take complete control. Or so it seemed.

The Carlow club reeled off five tries by Christian Vainerere, Cillian Murphy, Conor Duffy and Colm Gorry (2), all converted by Scott O’Sullivan-Magne to turn the game on its head.

Somehow Boyne had the character to rebound for tries from Karl Keogh and Eoghan Duffy to sneak ahead 36-35 into the final quarter.

In the end, it all hinged on a penalty by Paul Canavan in the 74th minute to see Tullow into the last eight.

Scorers – Tullow: C Gorry 2 tries; C Vainerere, C Murphy, C Duffy try each; P Canavan pen; Scott O’Sullivan-Magne 5 cons.  Boyne – K Keogh try, pen, 4 cons; K McCleary, R Hickey, R Vallejo, E Duffy try each; convert Karl Keogh.


Naas 40  Newbridge 13

A second-half surge propelled Naas into the quarter-finals at Forenaughts.

Underdogs Newbridge was twice held up over the line in a torrid first period as captain Tom Treacy burst over for their try, converted by Robbie Watters.

Out-half Watters also struck a penalty as they kept close enough to leave it 15-10 at the break, Matt Stapleton notching two penalties and the conversion of Derry Lenehan’s try.

Newbridge second-row Cameron English and number eight Treacy stayed the course and it even looked dicey for Naas when Watters’ penalty made it 18-13 in the 44th minute.

This was the signal for the home club to up the tempo as Jack Sheridan grabbed a brace and Colm Stapleton the closing try.

Scorers – Naas: J Sheridan 2 tries; R Lyons D Lenehan, C Stapleton try; M Stapleton 3 pens, 3 cons. Newbridge: T Treacy try; R Watters 2 pens, con.


Wexford 20 Gorey 29

Division 2A Wexford went toe to toe with 1A club Gorey, only for the North Wexford men to edge ahead in the final quarter at Park Lane.

The first quarter was all Gorey and they showed their experience to race into a 12-0 lead with fifteen minutes on the clock courtesy of tries by Darragh O’Leary and Richard Deering.

A young Wexford team began to get to grips with their visitors and slowly clawed their way back into the game, Donal Buckley stepped up to a penalty for 12-3 on the half hour.

Then, Shane McGuinness split the Gorey defence to run in under the posts for Buckley to add the conversion for 12-10 at the break.

They were soon in front when Sean Kelly-Komolafe crossed in the corner before Gorey’s Flynn Donnelly got over for O’Leary to add the conversion.

Just as Wexford pressed for a response, Donnelly took his chance to intercept and run from his own 22 to go under the posts, O’Leary converting for 26-15.

Gorey had finally got a bit of breathing space but it wasn’t to last for long. With ten minutes left on the clock, Wexford put the cat among the pigeons when Kevin Mahoney to the delight of the home crowd.

Gorey finally put two scores between the sides when a penalty saw Brian O Leary leave nine between the sides.

Scorers – Wexford: S McGuinness, S Kelly-Komolafe, K Mahoney try each; D Buckley pen, con. Gorey: F Donnelly 2 tries; D O’Leary, R Deering try each; B O’Leary 3 cons.


Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup third round draw:

Enniscorthy v Tullow
Naas v Cill Dara
Gorey v Kilkenny
Tullamore v Carlow

Games to be played Sunday, 19 March.