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Banbridge 42 - Naas 35   06/10/2017

This meeting of two unbeaten sides in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank All Ireland League, brought a large crowd to Banbridge last Saturday. They were rewarded with a feast of open running rugby, that produced no less than ten tries and rich entertainment for all.

Backed by a host of Ulster Academy players Banbridge were always going to present a stern challenge for Naas, and within four minutes they emphaised that point. 

Michael Lowry has been brought into that academy this season and he showed why here, as his superb break split the Naas defence and led to Tom Caesar scoring in the corner. Ian Porter missed the conversion, but unfortunately that was to be the only one missed by the scrum-half for the rest of the day.Naas struck back after ten minutes. Banbridge were penalised for crossing and Peter Osborne kicked into the corner. When the visitors secured possession from the line-out the ball was quickly moved out to the backs, where Ross Bailey Kearney shrugged off an attempted tackle to score under the posts. The successful penalty by Osborne gave Naas a 7-5 lead.

On 16 minutes some indiscipline by Naas in talking back to the referee, gave the home side an attacking platform which they took full advantage of. They kicked to touch and from the line-out Ian Porter made a sniping break, which led to Jonny Little scoring under the posts. The conversion for Porter was a formality and Banbridge led 12-7.

Again Naas responded. Banbridge were awarded a penalty on half-way, but on the intervention of the touch judge it was reversed for a neck role. Osborne kicked into the corner and from the line-out Naas set up a driving maul. When Banbridge pulled it down, referee Leo Colgan had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try and seven points to Naas.

Two quick tries in succession by Banbridge put them in the driving seat. Firstly Naas lost possession when in a good attacking position, and they watched in horror as Andrew Morrison ran practically the length of the pitch to score, and then Chris Allen crashed over from close range after good work by the home pack. With Porter converting both Banbridge now led 26-14.

Indeed it could have been worse for Naas as soon afterwards Banbridge somehow managed to contrive to blow a 3 on 1 chance, although the visitors did lose Fionn Carr who received a yellow card during this play. However within a minute the sides were numerically level as Michael Cromie also saw yellow. The referee then blew for half-time and the players and indeed spectators took a well deserved break.

The second half continued in the same vein with incidents and open rugby galore. Naas needed a quick score to get back into the game, and they got it within four minutes of the restart. When they won a penalty, Peter Osborne kicked into the corner, and from the line-out there was no stopping the driving maul as Naas barged over. Graham Reynolds was awarded the try and the successful conversion by Osborne made it 26-21.

However four minutes later Naas lost Paulie Tolofua to a harsh yellow card for a high tackle and Porter made no mistake with the subsequent penalty. But there is great heart in this Naas team and they were not going to give up easily. On 54 minutes another driving maul took play up to the Banbridge line, and a quick transfer of the ball to Ross Bailey Kearney saw him dive under the posts. The conversion by Osborne left just one point between the sides at 29-28.

Banbridge replied immediately. With Tolofua still in the bin, a series of attacks by them saw Naas run out of numbers defensively, and Josh Cromie scored in the corner. A superb Porter conversion, was followed by two penalities by the same player, giving the home side a 42-28 lead. Porter has played for both Ulster and Connacht, and on this display it is easy to see why.

Naas though were to have the final say.  Even though they lost Will O'Brien to another yellow card, they managed to steal a Banbridge line-out, which led to Paulie Tolofua scoring. The conversion would give Naas a losing bonus point, and Peter Osborne held his nerve to slot the kick leaving the final score Banbridge 42 - Naas 35.

Credit to both sides here on the entertainment served up as the quality of the rugby was first class. Although Naas were disappointed to have suffered their first defeat of the campaign, it certainly was no disgrace to come away from Banbridge with two points.

Next up for Naas is a home fixture against U.C.C. next Saturday, October 7th. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all are welcome.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Carr, Donal Droney, Ross Bailey Kearney, Peter Howard, Michael Skelton, Max Whittingham, Stephen Lackey, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Stephen Kinneavy, David Benn (c), Andrew Kearney, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua. 

Replacements: Charlie Kings, Bob Byran, Philip Jordan, Johne Murphy, James Cherrington.

Banbridge: Adam Doherty, Tom Caesar, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Andrew Kirkwood, Michael Lowry, Ian Porter, Eric O'Sullivan, Jonny Weir, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Robin Sinton, Caleb Montgomery, Nick Hayes, Steve Irvine.

Replacements: Peter Cromie, Stu Cromie, Ryan Hughes, Josh Cromie, Ben Carson.



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