PREVIEW: 2018 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final
April 26, 2018 9:09 am Site Editor
This Sunday 29th April in Wicklow RFC at 4.15pm, 2015 champions Enniscorthy RFC will take on reigning champions Tullow RFC in a decider that can be watched live on eir sport and will be streamed live on the Bank of Ireland Facebook page.
With the weather having played havoc with the sporting calendar all over the country in recent months, the stage is now set in Wicklow RFC for the cup showpiece in Leinster Junior Rugby. There may be some family rivalry in this years Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final, as there will be brothers lining up on opposite sides with Paddy Waters lining up for Enniscorthy RFC and his brother Joe aiming to help Tullow RFC retain their Provincial Towns Cup crown.
Both Enniscorthy and Tullow have won big games and have been made to work for their wins on route to the final but as both sides will tell you, once they cross the white lines on Sunday and the action begins, form of the previous weeks and months can have little to do with the outcome.
Enniscorthy have shot the lights out in their four games with over 150 points while the Tullow men haven’t had things their own way as much, coming in with just under 100 points to their credit. When it comes to the defence, both sides have been in miserly form.
Tullow’s defence, as shown in their heroic win over Wicklow in the semi-final, have been utterly outstanding conceding just 33 points in four games, while Enniscorthy themselves were no slouches with just 50 points put up against them in their four outings.
While the Enniscorthy side, particularly their backs have been in free scoring form, they are now coming up against probably the best defence they have come across in the competition to date.
Enniscorthy had an awesome 36-5 win over Division 1A champions Ashbourne in the semi-final and after a poor start in the league had them playing catch up all season.
Their Captain Ivan Poole was delighted with their performance in that semi-final, “Especially in the cup, because it is all on the day. You would know by Ashbourne that they had played the week before. Maybe they had their eye on the round robin a bit but we could play that game another 10 times in a row and it would be very tight. Everything went well for us. Our pack was phenomenal. The push over try before half time gave us a 14 point lead and a quick penalty straight after half time set us up for the rest of the game”.
“We got off to a very poor start in the league. We picked up no points in our first two games and that gave us a lot to do for the rest of the league. Ashbourne went on to win but we gave them a 10 point head start after the first two games. We had a draw and lost a few bonus points along the way as well but the change of focus to the cup has given us a silver lining”.
Poole will line up at outhalf and will captain the Enniscorthy men. Having earned winners medals in 2012 and 2015, he believes the experience he has picked up will help him with the occasion.
“I had been playing for 10 years before we got to that final in 2012 so it was a long time coming personally. Since 2012, we have had a great run of it. It is our fourth final since 2012 and we have got to semi-finals as well. Enniscorthy have a great tradition in the cup and I am lucky to be involved in a team that is at the top of that cycle at the moment.
“Regards the pressure, when you get more experience, you learn to deal with it better. In the first final I would have been really nervous and thinking about it from way too far out. Now you are more used to it and take every day as it comes up to the final”.
Speaking about their opponents on Sunday, the inform Enniscorthy men know that Tullow will be a formidable force.
“I have played Tullow many times in the cup. They knocked us out two years in a row. To win it last year out of 1B was a great achievement but if you look at the last four winners; Ashbourne, Wicklow, Tullow and us, three of those have won the towns cup from Division 1B.
“They had two great wins against Gorey and Wicklow (two Division 1A teams) on the way to the final and they will pose a serious threat to us on Sunday.”
On the opposite side, Tullow captain Keiaho Bloomfield is aiming to lead Tullow to back to back Provincial Towns Cups, something that hasn’t been done since Boyne’s double in 2009 and 2010.
“It has been exciting. I was saying to the boys that it has taken us a long time to win one and then to come back this year and have the chance to defend it. It is a huge boost for us and for everyone in the community. It is a good feeling to be back in the final”, explains Bloomfield.
The Carlow men were in a strong league position just before Christmas but the wheels came off leading to a change in focus to the Provincial Towns Cup, their Captain explains. “We were sitting at the top of the league just before Christmas and then we lost a couple of key games that would have put us in a position to have a chance of winning the league and when that went out of our hands we said that the best chance of silverware this year was going to be the cup. We went into the last three league games being mindful that we had a cup competition and were well it to get a result from that”.
Tullow have been built on a strong defence this year in the cup. They have conceded an average of just over eight points a game which is hugely impressive and Bloomfield explains that they have put in huge work on their defence.
“Last year we made a big stress on our defence and trying to tighten things up. This year it has been more of that and tightening up on a few small things that will help our game. We have put a huge emphasis on our defence in the last few years.
Bloomfield added, “Enniscorthy have put on big scores. They are a quality side. Going into it, it looks like one of the best attacking teams against a more defensive team. It will be a tough one. They will go in confident but we have to stick to our guns and back ourselves. We won’t be holding back and are looking forward to the challenge.”
The game will be live on Eir Sport and also streamed live on Facebook which is a new venture for Leinster Junior Rugby. Both Captains are excited at the prospect of showing off what Junior Rugby in the Province has to offer.
“It is massive having that the game is on Eir Sport. It is on Facebook live so potentially everybody could be watching. It is the first time it will be live on TV and it will add to the occasion”, Tullow Captain Keiaho Bloomfield.
Enniscorthy RFC captain Ivan Poole added, “It is fantastic to get this exposure. The tradition of the cup is massive and for the players playing at the weekend, it is their Champions Cup if you like to call it that, it is the top level of where they are playing. It will be a great occasion”.
Wicklow RFC will be the place to be this Sunday for the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final kicking off at 4.15pm. If you can’t make it to Wicklow this Sunday, watch the 2018 Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup Final live and free-to-air on eir sport, along with the game live on TV, it will also be available to watch live on the Bank of Ireland Facebook page, allowing an international audience to watch the final from Wicklow RFC.
PATHS TO THE 2018 FINAL
First Round – Enniscorthy 41 Midland Warriors 15
Second Round – Enniscorthy 34 Longford 20
Quarter final – Enniscorthy 62 – Clondalkin 10
Semi-Final – Enniscorthy 36 Ashbourne 5
First Round – Tullow 11 Naas seconds 6
Second Round – Tullow 46 Wexford Wanderers 3
Quarter final – Tullow 25 Gorey 19
Semi-final – Tullow 14 Wicklow 5