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Shannon 10 - Naas 14   14/10/2016

Shannon 10 - Naas 14
When captain Will O'Brien led the Naas team out of the dressing room last Saturday, it was one of the proudest moments in the long history of the club. For this occasion certainly showed just what great strides they have made in recent years. For now they were running out at Thomond Park, one of the most iconic venues in Irish Rugby to face the mighty Shannon, nine times All Ireland League champions.
The scene was certainly set for a great game. A dry, cool, crisp day was perfect for rugby and the large crowd had already enjoyed the 'warm up' game of Leinster v Munster.
Naas were slight favourites for this contest but were to be caught cold within two minutes of the start. Shannon came out with a statement of intent and before Naas had even settled down they were under their own goalposts. A series of quick passes gave Shannon a big overlap on the right and Lee Nicholson was in for a try that was easily converted by Ronan McKenna. A disastrous start and certainly it was now a big test of character for the away side.
The story of the rest of the half is easily told. Both sides struggled to create many chances and did a good job of cancelling each other out.
The only real scoring chance came on 22 minutes. Naas were awarded a penalty 35 yards out, but were unfortunate to see the kick by Peter Osborne strike the post. However the ball was subsequently knocked on by the Shannon defence, giving Naas a 5 yard scrum and a great attacking position. However referee Oisin Quinn deemed that Naas infringed at the subsequent scrum and gave the home side a line clearing penalty.
The rest of the half passed by without major incident leaving Shannon ahead by 7-0.
If it was Shannon who made the blistering start to the opening half, it was the turn of Naas for the second, as within a minute of the restart they scored. After a marvellous flowing move, winger Rob O'Connor managed to evade some despairing tackles to cross the Shannon line. A superb Peter Osborne conversion levelled the scores.
The game returned to the pattern of the first half until two scores in just over a minute decided the outcome. Firstly the home side nosed back in front on 70 minutes when Ronan McKenna coolly slotted a penalty to give Shannon a 10-7 lead.
Then almost straight from the restart came the decisive score which ultimately gained victory for Naas. Cillian Dempsey did superbly to block down a Shannon clearance and in a blink of an eye Johne Murphy was over for a Naas try. Murphy has graced Thomond Park on many an occasion but in the eyes of the away supporters he will never have scored a more important try there. Peter Osborne converted and Naas now led by 14-10.
Last week Naas lost to Buccaneers when leading with only a few minutes to go. Although Shannon tried hard to snatch victory here, Naas had learned from their mistakes and saw out the final stages comfortably enough to gain a famous victory.
Naas now have three weeks off before their next Ulster Bank All Ireland League game. Certainly this break will be welcomed as there are a lot of weary players around after four successive weeks of hard league rugby. Those four weeks have been successful. To step up to this high grade and gain two victories in addition to two narrow defeats is a great credit to the players and gives much optimism for the future.
Naas resume their campaign on October 29th when they are again on their travels, this time away to Ballynahinch.
Naas: Fionn Carr, Rob O'Connor, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Andrew Shanahan, Michael Skelton, Peter Osborne, Dan O'Byrne, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Warren Larkin, Will O'Brien, Eoin Walsh.
Replacements: Conor Johnson, Jason Harney, Cillian Dempsey, Andrew Kearney, Max Whittingham.



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