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DOLPHIN 20 - NAAS 30   27/09/2017

Naas began their 2017/'18 Ulster Bank AIL Division 1B campaign with an away fixture to Dolphin in Irish Independent Park last Saturday. This was a difficult opening assignment for Naas as Dolphin have a fine record on their home soil, as the visitors found to their cost when losing here last November.

The game was played in fine conditions, with practically no breeze around and Dolphin started brightly. They dominated possession and territory but to their dismay Naas struck first. A superb break by Paulie Tolofua saw him race into the Dolphin 22, and his pass put Fionn Higgins away to score. Johne Murphy struck the post with the conversion but the ball somehow went over the crossbar and Naas led 7-0.

Six minutes later Dolphin were back on level terms. They were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, but backed themselves to score a try and kicked into the corner. Following the line-out they got their driving maul working and Brian Scott was driven over. The successful conversion by Barry Keeshan tied up matters.

Dolphin continued to dictate matters but on 28 minutes they found themselves behind again. Donal Droney broke through their midfield defence and from the subsequent ruck Dolphin conceded a penalty which Johne Murphy slotted over.

However the home side had the final say of the half. When the Naas backs strayed offside on 36 minutes, referee Jonny Erskine had no hesitation in awarding a penalty which Keeshan kicked over to leave the score tied at ten points each at the break.

Naas changed their gameplan in the second half and ran at Dolphin at every opportunity and it brought great dividends.Six minutes into the half they struck with a brilliant try. Paulie Tolofua picked up from the base of the scrum on half-way and took off down the sideline. Just before he has tackled he put in a chip which Will O'Brien gathered. The ball was then moved quickly out the back-line to Michael Skelton who strolled over. Although the conversion was missed Naas led 15-10.

On 50 minutes Naas attempted to run the ball out of their own defence. However they coughed up possession and Dolphin immediately attacked. Ross Bailey Kearney was penalised for a deliberate knock on, which saw him receiving a yellow card and Keeshan reducing the Naas lead to two points.

Two Naas tries in the seven minutes midway through the half secured victory for the visitors. They both resulted from some inspirational play by Peter Howard. Firstly he received a ball near the touchline and half-way line. There certainly did not appear to be much on, but showing great strength and determination he brushed off three would be tacklers, cut inside and found Michael Skelton who sprinted clear to score. If that was good the next try was sensational. Howard caught a ball 30 yards from his own try line and took off on a mazy run that left five defenders in his wake. He then chipped ahead for Fionn Higgins to chase and he won the sprint to the line to score. With Murphy converting one of these the lead was extended to 27-13.

Dolphin did not give up and Brian Scott added another try for them, but with Stephen Kinneavy dominating the line-out exchanges Naas were comfortable in defending the lead, before Murphy added another penalty on the stroke of full-time to leave the final score Dolphin 20 - Naas 30.This was a tremendous way for Naas to start their league campaign. To pick up five points on the road sends out a statement that they mean business this season. Next up for them is a home fuxture this coming Saturday, October 23rd against UL Bohemians. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all are welcome.

Naas: Michael Skelton, Fionn Higgins, Donal Droney, Ross Bailey Kearney, Peter Howard, Johne Murphy, Max Whittingham, Stephen Lackey, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Philip Jordan, Stephen Kinneavy, Andrew Kearney, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua.

Replacements: Shane Reilly, Charlie Kings, Cathal Duff, Cathal Murtagh, Shane Thompstone.



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