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Naas 21 – Shannon 18   13/11/2017

The great thing about sport is its unpredictability. This was again emphasised last Saturday when Naas entertained Shannon in the Ulster Bank All Ireland League. The Limerick side had won all six of their games played to date while Naas were on a losing run of four. Although Naas won both of their meetings last season it looked a simple assignment for the visitors. However to the delight of their supporters Naas tore into Shannon from the first whistle and ended up gaining a stunning victory.

The match was played in constant rain but both sides made little of the conditions and served up some great rugby for the large crowd in attendance. Naas were first to strike after just three minutes. They attacked with real intent and when the Shannon backs strayed offside Peter Osborne punished them by successfully converting the penalty.

Naas continued to take the game to their opponents but found themselves back on level terms after 17 minutes. After a series of pick and drives by the Shannon forwards Naas were penalised for hands in the ruck, and Conor Fitzgerald made no mistake with his penalty attempt.

However there was a determination and belief in the play of Naas and they retook the lead on 26 minutes. Receiving the ball on the half-way Johne Murphy put in a crossfield kick that Shannon failed to deal with. Fionn Higgins kicked the loose ball forward and won the sprint to the line to score. With Peter Osborne adding the conversion Naas led 10-3. The quality of rugby on display at this stage was of the highest standard and Shannon showed their quality on 31 minutes. Awarded a penalty after Naas pulled down a driving maul they kicked into the corner. They set up another driving maul that was stopped on this occassion, before moving the ball out to the backs. Conor Fitzgerald put in a lovely chip behind the Naas defence and Jack O'Donnell was on hand to score in the corner.

On 37 minutes the crowd witnessed a sublime piece of skill by Fionn Higgins. Some fine handling by the Naas backs saw him receive the ball 30 yards out. There did not appear to be much danger for Shannon at this stage but they did not count on the ability of the Naasman. He chipped the ball over the head of Eathon Moloney, gathered it before beating a despairing tackle and scoring a superb solo try in the corner. Although Peter Osborne missed the conversion Naas led 15-8 at the break.

Within two minutes of the second half Naas had a let off when the normally accurate Conor Fitzgerald missed a relatively easy penalty attempt, but within four minutes the visitors again showed their class. Johne Murphy has his attempted clearance blocked and Shannon quickly turned this to their advantage. They went through the phases, which created a huge overlap on the left side and saw Aaron Gallagher go in for a try. Although the conversion was missed the Naas lead had been reduced to 15-13.

James Cherrington was making his first start for Naas here and his direct, strong running was to the fore all afternoon. He was again seen to good effect on 57 minutes. He ran straight at the Shannon defence and it took two players to take him down. At the subsequent ruck the visitors were penalised for hands in the ruck and Osborne extended the Naas lead.

Shannon have not won six consecutive games for no reason and they responded by levelling the scores on 62 minutes. They won a lineout ten yards from the Naas line, set up a powerful driving maul and this led to Charlie Carmody diving over to tie the scores up. With four minutes remaining Naas struck for the decisive and match winning score. Their pack was now on top in the scrum and they were awarded a penalty at the set piece that Johne Murphy put into the corner. Following the lineout Naas attempted to move the ball out the backline, but Conor Fitzgerald in an attempt to intercept knocked the ball on. Referee Eddie Hogan O'Connell deemed it deliberate, gave the player a yellow card and awarded Naas a penalty. This was a pressure kick for Peter Osborne but he held his nerve and successfully slotted it to give Naas the lead.

They still had a couple of nervous moments to overcome before the final whistle blew. Indeed one lineout steal by David Benn was particularly vital in Naas holding out for the victory. Seconds later the match ended and sparked some jubilant celebrations by the home supporters.

This victory emphasised that Naas are more than capable of beating any side in this division, with a play-off spot at the very least within their reach.

Next up for them is an away trip to Old Belvedere on Saturday week. Kick-off is at 2pm and all support would be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Higgins, James Cherrington, Michael Skelton, Donal Droney, Johne Murphy, Max Whittingham, Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn(c), Andrew Kearney, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua. 

Replacements: Cathal Duff, Stephen Lackey, Stephen Kinneavy, Warren Larkin, Shane Thompstone.

Shannon: Steven Fitzgerald, Nathan Randles, Jack O'Donnell, Will Leonard, Eathon Moloney, Conor Fitzgerald, Fionn McGibney, Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Ciaran Parker, Jade Kriel, Sean McCarthy, Charlie Carmody, Elliott Fitzgibbon, Lee Nicholas(c). 

Replacements: Tai Chan, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Pa Ryan, Aaron Gallagher.



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