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Naas 10 - UCC 6   08/11/2016

Naas 10 - UCC 6

Naas continued their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League campaign with a home fixture against UCC last Saturday. These sides know each other well as they played twice last season in gaining promotion from Division 2A. Both games then were closely fought affairs, and the large crowd who gathered in Naas for this fixture were expecting something similar, and that is how it turned out with the outcome in the balance right up to the final whistle.

Naas went into this game on the back of two outstanding away wins over Shannon and Ballynahinch, and started here in blistering fashion. Gaining possession straight from the kick-off, they went straight on the attack. With some sublime handling they put together a string of 25 phases that had the UCC defence in all sorts of trouble, but they failed to get a score from this and the away side managed to clear their lines.

UCC slowly gained a foothold in the game and after 13 minutes they had a great chance to open the scoring. Naas were penalised at a scrum but Kevin O'Keeffe was unable to make the most of what was a relatively easy penalty chance.

However on 22 minutes he made amends. The UCC winger James Kiernan made a great break that took play right up to the try line. In their desperation to stop the attack Naas gave away a penalty at the ruck and O'Keeffe was able to give the visitors a three point lead.

Naas were the better side for the remainder of the half, twice coming within inches of a try. Firstly Henry Bryce carved open the UCC defence but was stopped just short, and then following a break by Fionn Carr, Peter Osborne chipped in behind the UCC backs but Rob O'Connor just failed to gather the loose ball for what would have been a certain try.

Naas finally got a score their endeavours deserved two minutes before the break. Paulie Tolofua carried the ball with purpose, he passed to Ben Swindlehurst who was tackled high. Peter Osborne succesfully kicked the penalty to leave the sides level at 3-3 at half-time.

Ten minutes into the second-half UCC regained the lead. Daragh Moloney who was outstanding throughout pierced the home defence. When he was stopped in his tracks Naas gave away a penalty at the ruck. Kevin O'Keeffe hit the post with the kick and the ball was cleared to touch. However from the subsequent line-out Naas were penalised for collapsing the maul, and wing forward Eoin Walsh was sin-binned. O'Keeffe slotted over the subsequent penalty to give UCC a 6-3 lead.

Three points in arrears and a man down meant Naas were now up against it, but they responded to the challenge. With 15 minutes to go they looked sure to score but referee Robert O'Sullivan deemed them offside at a ruck and gave UCC a penalty. This must go down as a baffling decision by the referee, one of many he made throughout the eighty minutes against both sides.

On 69 minutes Naas struck for what turned out to be the winning score. Following great handling by the backs Johne Murphy fed Henry Bryce. He took play up to the UCC line before passing to Michael Skelton who dived over. The conversion by Peter Osborne gave Naas a 10-6 lead.

UCC threw everything at Naas in the closing stages in a bid to rescue the game. They won a succession of penalities which they kicked into the corner, and tried to maul their way over the line. In one of those mauls they committed no less than 12 players into it. However the Naas defence held firm and a large shout of relief and joy went up when the referee blew the final whistle.

This victory which leaves Naas fourth in the league table will give them a lot of pleasure. Previously against Ballynahinch they played great rugby in winning a free flowing game. But here they were not playing at their best yet managed to dig out a victory in a tight, hard battle. This shows that they are tactically versatile, while the concession of just six points means they now have the meanest defence in the league, having conceded just 94 points in six games.

Next up for Naas is an away fixture to another Cork side Dolphin. The game is at Irish Independent Park, next Saturday, November 12th. Kick-Off is at 2.30pm and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Carr, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Rob O'Connor, Ben Swindlehurst, Max Whittingham, Dan O'Byrne, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Stephen Kinneavy, David Benn, Eoin Walsh, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua.

Replacements: Warren Larkin, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, Andrew Kearney, Micheal Skelton.

UCC: Chris McAuliffe, Kevin O'Keeffe, Kevin Slater, Murray Linn, James Kiernan, Charlie O'Regan, Richie Walsh, Shane O'Hanlon, Ben Burns, Rob O'Donovan, Daragh Moloney, Ben Mitchell, Richie Moran, Conor Barry, Daire Feeney.

Replacements: Charlie Slowey, James Kendrick, Graham Smith, Tom Kiersey, Rory Slater.



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