Longford edge tense Promotion/Relegation Playoff 2016-03-14 13:56:00

Leinster League Division 1B/2A Promotion Relegation Playoff

Longford 16 Railway Union 13

Longford Rugby Club Senior Men first XV did all they could to ensure that they will continue to ply their trade in Division 1B next season having overcome Railway Union in Edenderry on a score of 16-13.  The Sunday fixture at Coolavacoose, Carbury was a thrilling affair that offered excitement right up to the final whistle.

The pressure of what was dubbed “the most important game of that last number of seasons” was apparent as the side initially struggled to turn on the consistent work rate they have produced in the last three outings, but Longford grafted to the final 80 to secure this important victory. 

After the previous weekend’s rousing display at Silken Thomas Park in the Curragh to overcome Cill Dara on a score of 20-40 and the crunching encounter with Mullingar before that this “cup final decider” to ensure survival in Division 1B came with a deal of expectation from the fans.

The sizable crowd that travelled to Offaly showed the significance of the game to the Longford faithful. In the early exchanges the Sandymount men played with an attacking verve that took the Midlanders by surprise.  The Dubliners were quicker to the ruck and had the upper hand at the breakdown.

Strong defensive work by the men in black prevented Railway Union from turning their advantages into scores.  Longford’s first concerted foray into the opponent’s half was in the 12th minute.  This turned up a penalty and quick thinking by Kurt Beeney saw the centre tap and go to ground out wide and give Longford the opener, against the run of play, to leave it 05-00.

The score on the board gave Longford a boost and the dominance in the line out and scrum helped steady nerves.  However it was the Dubliners who would claw back the margin thanks to a penalty just outside the Longford 22.

The Longford pack started to assert their dominance and carries from Arron Beirne and Benny McManus shunted Union back into their half.  McManus, who was Longford’s strongest contributor on the day, orchestrated forward momentum that eventually resulted in a penalty the Colm Glynn used to stretch the lead to 08-03, where it stayed to the break.

Longford held the lead at half time, but a mounting penalty count, primarily coming from ruck infringements, saw the Sandymont side creep back into the contest.  A converted penalty brought it to 08-06 and this was added to with a breakout from the Dubliner’s 22 that pushed into Longford territory.  A messy scrum somehow saw the RU hooker emerge with the ball and take advantage of a flat footed defence to ground under the posts.

In a matter of minutes Longford had gone from a comfortable lead to chasing the game.  The 08-13 score made the reality of Division 2 rugby loom heavily over the team.  An enormous force of will, with particularly effective pack work, pressed Railway Union back into their half.

Clifford Richardson, Dylan Quinn, Derek Farrell and Alistair McCormack were all at the forefront of the fight back. It was McCormack who had the honour of grounding a wonderful team try that pushed Longford to level pegging with just four minutes to play.

Shortly after the restart further pressure by the Midlanders threw up a penalty 35 metres out from the Railway goal.  Glynn showed an ice cold nerve to clip it over to put his side back in front 16-13.

The tension did not end there however, as the Sandymount men got a final kick at goal just inside the Longford half as the clock had turned red.  It was not to be for the Railway Union kicker and his inability to hit the target consigned his side to another season in Division 2A.

Fans are asked to note that rugby is not over for the season just yet.   The club are calling for all the supporters to be at CPL Park this Sunday when Midlands Warriors pay a visit to contest the next round of the Town’s Plate.

Although Longford won the 1B promotion/relegation playoff their continuance in Division 1B will be confirmed at the end of April as it is dependent on promotion and relegation from Division 2C of the All Ireland League (AIL);

If a team from Leinster gets relegated from 2C, which is looking likely at present as Dundalk are occupying the bottom spot, we will be relying on Leinster Division 1A Champions Enniscorthy winning the AIL qualification round robin between the junior champions of Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Ulster.  The winner of the Round Robin gains automatic promotion to Division 2C while the second placed team gets a shot at promotion in a playoff against the second from bottom team in Division 2C, currently Sligo.  If Enniscorthy do not win promotion and Dundalk are relegated then be virtue of an extra team coming down into Division 1A the bottom two sides in each Leinster League division are automatically relegated with only the divisional winners getting promoted.  This would mean Longford going down.

So it looks like we need Enniscorthy to get promoted to the AIL to be playing Division 1B rugby next season.

The AIL does not conclude until the end of April and the Round Robin still has to begin so unfortunately our Divisional status for next season will not be confirmed until the end of next month.

Dylan Quinn, Hubie Connolly, Justin Forde, Aaron Beirne, Benny McManus, Clifford Richardson, Alistair McCormack, Derek Farrell, Neil Farrell, Colm Glynn, James Connolly, Kurt Beeney, Shane Rodgers, Joe McGowan, George McDermott

John Duffy, Daniel Sweeney, Peter Kirk, Steve Coy, Johnny Beirne

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