WEXFORD manager Colm Bonnar looked beyond the scoreline and celebrated the fact that his team didn't, as many teams do against Kilkenny in their own back yard, roll over and die.
"Nine points down at half-time wasn't a fair indication. Man for man, we matched them," said Bonnar of his side's gallant display in the 2-16 to 0-17 Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 defeat.
"They opened us up for the first goal, but the second goal was just a pure fluke.
"In fairness to our lads, they could have dropped the head, but they knew they were going man to man and they were hurling with them, up against one of the greatest teams that have played in the last 10 years; it's a learning curve.
"We knew we needed to go out in the second half and continue. The most pleasing thing is that we hit 11 points in the second half to Kilkenny's seven. We did work them and work them very hard."
It wasn't Kilkenny's best effort. It's a long time since Tommy Walsh was as quiet as he was in his customary wing-back berth, his usual fleet-footedness absent as Stephen Banville economically picked three points off him.
Elsewhere, the Cats relied on their guile and great experience. Michael Fennelly had moments of dominance at midfield and Colin Fennelly looks like he will break into the championship 15 on a permanent basis by summer.
For other stalwarts, there are more worrying times ahead. Eddie Brennan eventually pinched two points off his 19-year-old opponent Matthew O'Hanlon, who is developing into a commanding full-back. 'Cha' Fitzpatrick's second coming as a corner-forward also yielded two points, but Richie Hogan's substitution didn't bode well for him.
The only other substituted Kilkenny player was Michael Rice, who was injured. Brian Cody saw two more points secured and little to trouble him. "We created more chances than we put away, for sure, we had opportunities for more scores but look at this time of year everything doesn't flow as you would like. It brings us on, three wins from three games, we'll settle for it," he said.
For the opening nine minutes, Wexford coped through the defensive stability of O'Hanlon, Ciaran Kenny and the clever reading of centre-back Darren Stamp. But once Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin combined to set up TJ Reid for the opening goal and a 1-1 to 0-0 lead, the dynamic shifted. From defending admirably, they were four points down and vulnerable.
That second Kilkenny goal was fortuitous, goalkeeper Noel Carton's attempt to swat away a loose ball ricocheted off Colin Fennelly and spun back over Carton for a 2-8 to 0-5 lead on 31 minutes.
Wexford survived on scraps with only Jim Berry piercing the cover. By the break, Kilkenny were comfortable, 2-9 to 0-6 clear. But Stamp, Prendergast, Michael Jacob, Berry, Banville and replacements Eoin Quigley and PJ Nolan all rose to it. After 61 minutes they were still nine points adrift (2-15 to 0-12) but warming to the task.