The 2008-09 Newstalk Provincial Towns Cup got underway last Saturday week (it was moved from its traditional Sunday slot because of the scheduling by the ERC of the Leinster v Edinburgh Heineken Cup game)…

1st Round:

It proved to be quite a good day for favourites with few if any opening day shocks.

Newbridge have had some pretty tough 1st Round draws over the past few years – Tullamore and Cill Dara away immediately spring to mind – so it was a welcome relief for them to a have a Div 2 opponent, albeit in Roscrea, which has been a graveyard for many a team’s Towns Cup dreams down through the years.

A couple of tries in the opening ten minutes by centre Ben Swindlehurst and flanker Rory McCann laid the foundation for this hard-earned 18-6 victory whereupon it took a late breakaway try by scrum half Dave Hogan to secure victory and earn the Rosetown lads a trip to Div 1 pacesetters Navan in the next round.

Centre Luke McCormack was the hero for Clane as his two penalty goals were enough to send hosts Mullingar packing.

McCormack’ two efforts early in the second half were enough for the visitors in a workmanlike performance while the hosts will reflect on five missed shots at goal.

A fine defensive stand near the end also proved vital and Clane can now look forward to entertaining New Ross in the next round.

Athy out half Ross Bell chipped in with 17 points as the Div 3 home side caused the only minor shock of the opening round as they thumped Edenderry 22-3 at the Showgrounds.

Bell kicked three penalty goals (after missing his first two attempts on goal) to put the hosts 9-0 in front at half time.

Replacement full back Ollie Henry scored a try after the break as Bell converted and added a couple of more penalty goals to earn Athy a trip to Tullamore in the next round.

Portarlington were undone by a last minute penalty goal in Ashbourne, having led most of the way; in fact Ashbourne had only equalised with a try five minutes from the end as the county Meath club advanced with a 16-13 win.

There was another tight affair in Longford where the Div 2 hosts spotted their visitors from a higher league Enniscorthy a 21-6 lead before failing by a point to reel them in, Enniscorthy winning 21-20.

Portlaoise stuttered somewhat before ultimately comfortably putting a big Clondalkin side away 36-13 while Dundalk were level 6-6 at half time in Wexford before eventually beating the local Wanderers 19-6.

The tale of New Ross’ home win over Arklow was somewhat similar as they led 10-9 at half time before pulling away for a 39-14 success.

Skerries were convincing 32-0 home winners against Wicklow while in the final game Boyne won 19-0 in Gorey.

1st Rd results – Saturday 24th January

• Skerries 32-0 Wicklow
• New Ross 39-14 Arklow
• Wexford Wanderers 6-19 Dundalk
• Portlaoise 36-13 Clondalkin
• Longford 20-21 Enniscorthy
• Mullingar 0-6 Clane
• Athy 22-3 Edenderry
• Roscrea 6-18 Newbridge
• Gorey 0-19 Boyne
• Ashbourne 16-13 Portarlington

Scrum half Danny Smith was the toast of North Kildare on Sunday evening when his 98th minute opportunistic try dramatically propelled the Kilcock-based side into the 2nd Round of this season’s Newstalk Provincial Towns Cup on a 25-20 scoreline.

Kilkenny had forced extra time when they scored an equally dramatic injury time try at the end of normal time to level the scores at 17-17 apiece.

Both sides then added a penalty goal each to set up the remarkable finish as the North Kildare pack nudged a Kilkenny scrum backwards near their own line and Smith reacted quickest to touchdown when the No 8 failed to gather at the base with only two minutes left on the clock.

The game was a tremendous advert for the Towns Cup with both teams at various stages looking as if they were going to advance.

Leinster League Div 3 leader’s North Kildare’s reward for their scalp of Div 2 promotion-chasing Kilkenny is a home tie next Sunday against another Div 2 club Ashbourne.

Naas 2nd XV failed by the narrowest of margins to make it a County Kildare 1st round clean sweep when they agonisingly lost 8-7 to last year’s beaten finalists Tullow.

The visitors to Tullow’s Black Gates home led 7-3 until the midpoint of the second half when a blockdown of a Naas clearance resulted in the decisive try and with it the exit of the two-time winners at the hands of Tullow for the second year-in-a-row.

Co Carlow, who lead the Towns Cup roll of honour with 12 victories, travelled to Rathdrum and despite having a player sent off emerged with a comfortable 42-10 win.

1st Rd results – Sunday 1st February

• North Kildare 25-20 Kilkenny
• Rathdrum 10-42 Co Carlow
• Tullow 8-7 Naas

2nd Rd Fixtures – Sunday 8th February (KO: 3pm)

• Enniscorthy v Skerries
• Portlaoise v Cill Dara
• Boyne v Tullow
• Navan v Newbridge
• Tullamore v Athy
• Co Carlow v Dundalk
• Clane v New Ross
• North Kildare v Ashbourne