Sunday saw another busy and entertaining day in the Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup with eight teams going into battle and vying for a semi-final berth.

Three of last year’s semi-finalists were once again in the hunt while there were also three Leinster league winning teams looking to add yet more silverware.
The all-conquering Enniscorthy, who already have the Leinster league Division 1A title and the All Ireland Junior cup secured, Division 2A winners, Portlaoise, Division 2B winners, Roscrea were joined by Kilkenny, Clondalkin, Wicklow, Gorey and Naas seconds and the four games threw up varying patterns.
The game of the day saw the meeting of last year’s finalists – Enniscorthy and Kilkenny. When the draw was made, it was by some distance the stand out game and as expected, it went right down to wire and it took 100 minutes of all action rugby to find a winner.  With the sides level 35-35 after 80 minutes, extra time ensued with the defending champions and cup favourites Enniscorthy pulling away and running out 49-35 winners.

Played in Enniscorthy, it was tight throughout.  Enniscorthy may have had the form going into the game but no doubt that last minute defeat in last year’s final proved no small motivation for the Kilkenny men.
The scoring was opened in the ninth minute when Jack Kelly crossed for a try before the ever reliable Ivan Poole added the extras to put Enniscorthy 7-0 up early doors.
Rather than lie down and wilt, this gave Kilkenny a wakeup call and they notched up 13 points in 10 minutes to stun their hosts and take a 13-7 lead by the 20th minute.  Two penalties from the outstanding Rory McInerney left it a one point game before a well worked try from John Phelan on 20 minutes soared them into the lead.
They held that lead for about 15 minutes.  Ivan Poole kicked a penalty before two tries in the last five minutes of the half from Ivan Jacob and Hughie O’Neill propelled the Enniscorthy men into the lead before half time.  Kilkenny did tag on two penalties either side of those tries, but it was the Wexford men who went in leading 22-19 at the break.
Penalties were exchanged in the opening 10 minutes of the second half before Poole once again kicked the champions further ahead.  With 10 minutes to go, Enniscorthy led 28-25 but a try from Ross Barbour, which Poole converted left them 35-25 ahead.

McInerney added a penalty to make sure the last few minutes were nervy for the Wexford men as only a converted try separated the sides.  With the game in the final minute, Kilkenny struck with Podge Mahon going over before McInerney added the conversion ensuring that this ding dong battle would continue into extra time.
Enniscorthy went on to dominate the extra time and and a try in each 10 minute period from Damien McCabe and Ivan Jacob made sure of their passage into the last four with a 49-35 win.
Another team who had form going into the weekend were Gorey.  Second in the league and a convincing cup run to date saw them go into the game away to Naas seconds as favourites.
However, there was to be some cup magic in the Kildare air as Naas convincingly put the Gorey men to the sword.  The full time score read 23-14 but with 10 minutes to go, Naas led 23-0 with two converted tries in the final 10 minutes finally getting Gorey off the mark.
Naas recorded their opening try in the eight minute with Cillian Dempsey adding the extras.  Dempsey added another penalty on 18 minutes before a try from Brian Fitzgerald and another conversion from Dempsey put them 17-0 ahead at the break.

Instead of Gorey eating into the lead with a strong start to the second half, it was the Kildare men who drove on.  Dempsey opened the second half scoring with a penalty before he added another on the 70 minute mark as the scores became scarce and Naas looked to just close out the win.
Leading 23-0 with 10 minutes to go, they may have lost focus and that, coupled with a late burst from Gorey saw the Wexford men grab two late consolation converted tries to leave it 23-14 in the end.
Clondalkin were recently relegated to Division 1B but the cup is serving as a welcome distraction to that scenario.  Beaten semi-finalists last year, they have made it back to the last four again this year after they had way too much for Division 2B champions Roscrea in a 58-8 win.
The opening 25 minutes or so were close and all of Roscrea’s points came in that period, although it was the Dublin men who led 10-8 with 15 minutes left in the opening half.
Roscrea had discipline issues and were down to 13 players for a period as the likes of Chris Jebb took full advantage.  His try made it 25-8 to Clondalkin while he also had a perfect return of nine kicks from nine over the course of the 80 minutes.  Neil Finlay had a towering game and he also got in on the scoring act but put the Dubs 45-8 in front and coasting.
The gulf in class was showing and Clondalkin didn’t let up.  They added three more tries before the finish with Simon King grabbing two and Matty Stapleton completing the rout.

The final quarter final of the day saw Portlaoise host a Wicklow side buoyed with confidence after finishing second in Division 1B and putting themselves in the shop window for promotion to Division 1A.
Portlaoise themselves were not short on confidence having won the Division 2A title earlier this month and saw this game as a real tester and one they could throw off the shackles in.
Wicklow were convincing winners in the end and never looked in any real danger of slipping up despite a nervy and error ridden opening to the game.  Once again it was their talisman Niall Earls to powered them to victory.  Earls is one of the players of the tournament so far and he notched 20 points on route to the win.
Wicklow led 13-3 at half time with all 13 points coming from Earls.  He opened the scoring from a penalty and although John Scully levelled for Portlaoise, Wicklow finished the half strong with Earls converting his own try just before half time to land the killer blow.
With injury time being played, he had time to add another penalty as the visitors led by 10 at half time.  An early second half try for Wicklow killed off any chance of a Portlaoise comeback but they didn’t give up the fight with their efforts rewarded with 20 minutes to go when Gavin Thompson crossed for a try.
That was to be their last score as Wicklow added 17 more points in the closing half an hour.  Kieran Hurrell and Shane Byrne both got over for tries while Earls was on hand to convert both and also land a penalty to send them through.
The draw for the semi-finals was made in Portlaoise after the game and it through up two very interesting ties.

The Naas Towns Cup dream will face its toughest possible examination this Sunday when they take on Enniscorthy in Kilkenny RFC while Wicklow and Clondalkin will go into battle on Sunday week in Carlow for the chance to contest the 91st Bank Of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup final.
Quarter Final Results
Enniscorthy 49 Kilkenny 35
Naas 2nd XV 23 Gorey 14
Clondalkin 58 Roscrea 8
Wicklow 35 Portlaoise 8
Semi-final Fixtures
Enniscorthy v Naas Seconds – Sunday March 27th in Kilkenny RFC at 3pm.
Clondalkin v Wicklow – Sunday 3rd April in Co Carlow FC at 3pm.
Note: Naas v Enniscorthy is on Sunday next 27th March as Enniscorthy commence their AIL Round Robin campaign the following weekend in Clonmel