Holders Kilkenny and in-form Tullow will meet in the 2023 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final at Athy RFC on Sunday, 23 April following two keenly contested semi-finals on Sunday.

Tullow 27 County Carlow 25
Tullow had to withstand a ferocious fightback by County Carlow in a nail-biting local derby at Alcast Park in Enniscorthy.

The 2017 Towns Cup champions have been on fire this season, aiming to add the Cup to the Leinster League Division 1B title.

They brought their high confidence to the table, answering an early penalty by Ben Crotty with a try by loose-head prop Scott Caldbeck, converted by Adam Johnson, when the decision was taken to go to the corner.

The swinging momentum of the contest took another turn when Carlow grabbed the lead again with a try by David McDermott from a period of pressure into the wind.

Back came their neighbours to recover a slight advantage from the left boot of wing Scott O’Sullivan to make it 10-8 in the 23rd minute.

Tullow broke the ‘you-score, we-score’ pattern when Jordan Leybourne popped up on the wing to outflank the cover.

Carlow was able to bite back when wing Evan Gordon’s sweet pass sent full-back Crotty through in the 37th minute.

Deep into injury-time, the winners carved out a second try by captain Caldbeck off the back of a series of close-range drives, converted by O’Sullivan, to take a welcome 22-13 lead into the break.

They stretched this out to 14 points from a fourth try by hooker Leybourne, from a similar set-up to his first, to hold what looked like an unassailable lead in the 48th minute.

This would have reckoned without the sheer bloody-mindedness of Carlow, who prevented Tullow from adding to their total with impressive defence.

Carlow took over the last quarter, out-half Richard Whyte controlling the flow of the game, despite scrum penalties to Tullow.

Losing Larry McGrath to the bin couldn’t stop them from breaking back until a second try by centre McDermott, converted by Crotty, in the 75th minute put the issue in doubt.

The stakes were higher and Tullow lost centre Christian Vainerere to a high tackle as the minutes slipped by.

Carlow had the composure to take advantage of the extra body in a desperate endgame, manufacturing a fourth try for wing Caomhan Brennan.

It gave Crotty the chance to send it to extra time, the conversion sadly scraping the outside of the post.

Scorers: Tullow – S Caldbeck, J Leybourne 2 tries each; S O’Sullivan pen, con; A Johnson con. County Carlow – D McDermott 2 tries; B Crotty try, pen, 2 cons; C Brennan try each.

Kilkenny 20 Cill Dara 8
The holders Kilkenny were able to resist a sustained challenge from Cill Dara at Portlaoise RFC.

The visitors started impressively, forcing a number of penalties through their props Ross Scully and DJ Brannock.

This was the basis for two kickable penalties which were both missed by Rory Conway and Tadhg Murtagh.

Hunting back-to-back titles to match those of 2001 and 2002, Kilkenny made up for their unsteady scrum with a superior lineout.

They moved ahead from stealing a throw for veteran number eight David O’Connor to drive over, the conversion coming from Hugh Corkery, in the 20th minute.

The introduction of loose-head prop Joe Moynihan steadied the Kilkenny ship.

This was the signal for Kilkenny to pour on the pressure, grinding through the gears for centre Podge Mahon burst over in the 35th minute.

Cill Dara did earn something of a boost when Tadhg Murtagh struck a penalty when the ball was batted down to make it 12-3 at half-time.

The challenge was there for the Kildare club to snatch the next significant moment to sow a seed of doubt in their opponents’ minds.

They delivered on that when a break up the line by wing Brynn Moore created the space for scrum-half Dave Vaughan to dot down near the posts in the 48th minute.

The visitors were on the move, forcing a yellow card to Damien Leahy, in pursuit of more points before poor game management allowed Kilkenny to escape.

On the hour mark, Kilkenny took a stranglehold on proceedings when a 5-metre scrum was the platform for full-back Liam Caddy to claim an unconverted try.

The experience of having been in this situation many times was confirmed when Kilkenny managed the final quarter well, leaving out-half Jake McDonald to provide the insurance points near the end.

Scorers: Kilkenny – L Caddy, P Mahon, D O’Connor try each; J McDonald pen; H Corkery con. Cill Dara – D Vaughan try; T Murtagh pen.