Reigning champions Tullow RFC are back in the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final once again as they put 2016 champions Wicklow RFC to the sword in their semi-final at Cill Dara RFC on Sunday.
A low-scoring encounter, Tullow’s win was based on an exceptional defence that had to withstand plenty of pressure over the 80-plus minutes.
While it may have been a bit of a surprise based on league position, the reality was that this was always going to be a 50/50 game. Bank of Ireland Leinster League Division 1A side Wicklow had racked up big scores in previous rounds but 1B side Tullow proved to be their toughest task.
After beating Skerries RFC 2nd XV in the final last year, Tullow will get the chance to retain their crown on Sunday, 29th April, at Wicklow RFC.
The Wicklow men had the carrot of a home final to play for but the Carlow men showed no mercy in whipping that away from them.
Both sides would have been confident coming into the game but it was Wicklow who were applying most of the early pressure. Despite this, it was Tullow who got the scoreboard rolling with William Canavan kicking a penalty.
The game remained tight with defences on top but Tullow found another penalty on 24 minutes with Canavan once again doing the business to put them 6-0 up.
Wicklow just couldn’t find a way through and were choosing to kick a lot rather than making ground with ball in hand.
They were punished yet again by Canavan who added his third penalty of the half and it looked like the defending champions would go in 9-0 up at the half.
However, Wicklow made the breakthrough just before half-time through scrum-half Billy Ngawini who grounded the ball after a well-worked drive to make it 9-5 at the break.
The next score would be massive and, despite playing into the wind in the second half, Tullow got in for their only try of the game just a minute after the restart with centre Augustine Mafoe going over to continue his impressive try-scoring form.
Canavan missed the conversion but it put Tullow 14-5 up.
From here the Tullow defence really stood up. Wicklow attacked forcefully but Tullow forced three turnovers in a row and cleared their lines to maintain their lead.
Errors and a lack of patience inside the Tullow 22 cost the Wicklow men. With 10 minutes to go, chances were going begging for the 1A side as they missed a penalty that would have made it a one-score game.
Despite having plenty of chances, Wicklow couldn’t crack the Tullow defence and they were kept scoreless for the second half.
A joyous Tullow got the job done and will be a force to be reckoned with in the final as they look to defend their title.
eir Sport will broadcast the 2018 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final live from Wicklow RFC. This new initiative is with thanks to Bank of Ireland and will mark the first time that the Towns Cup has been broadcast on live TV.
Along with the final being shown on TV, it will also be available to watch live on the Bank of Ireland Facebook page, allowing an international audience to watch the game from Wicklow RFC.
Tullow RFC: 15. Cillian Redmond; 14. Shane Rohan, 13. Augustine Mafoe, 12. Keiaho Bloomfield (Capt.), 11. Paul Stephenson; 10. William Canavan, 9. Garrett Fitzgerald; 1. Scott Caldbeck, 2. Aaron O’ Byrne, 3. Louis Kilkoyne; 4. Joe Waters, 5. Frank Murphy; 6. Kyle Hanbidge, 7. John Hanbidge, 8. Stephen Smith.
Replacements: Sam Corrigan, Charlie Ward, William O’Brien, Jack Mc Donald, Dylan Leighburn.
Wicklow RFC: 15. Stephen Duffy; 14. Alex Porter, 13. Ben Porter, 12. Shane Farrar, 11. Dean Leonard; 10. Brian Keegan, 9. Billy Ngawini; 1. Eanna Killeen, 2. Jack McKenna, 3. Neil Dickenson; 4. George Naoupu, 5. Jack McGrath; 6. Liam Gaffney, 7. Jonny Hopkins, 8. Wes Wojnar.
Replacements: Seamus O’Brien, Jason Byrne, Luke Thompson, Denis Higgins, Ben Armstrong.