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Naas 24 - Ballynahinch 27   05/02/2018

After their great victory over Old Belvedere, Naas faced another stern challenge last Saturday when they entertained Ballynahinch. A quick glance at the league table illustrated the size of the task in front of them, as the Ulstermen sat in second place, just one point behind leaders Shannon. What transpired was an enthralling contest, that contained some great scores and a dramatic finish. 

To the delight of the home supporters Naas got off to a dream start with a try within sixty seconds. Ballynahinch were extremely slow to get to the pace of the game, and when Fionn Higgins received the ball thirty yards out there was not a defender in sight. He gleefully took the opportunity that had presented itself to score under the posts, with Peter Osborne adding the conversion.

However the rest of the half belonged to the visitors. Naas just could not get their line out to function properly which meant they were starved of quality ball, and Ballynahinch took full advantage. They reduced the Naas lead after 12 minutes when some slick handling by their backs saw Richard Reaney score in the corner. Although the same player missed the conversion they were right back in the contest.

There was a debatable decision by referee Eddie Hogan O'Connell six minutes later. The touch judge called his attention to an off the ball incident and he called over both Will O'Brien and Ballynahinch's Peter Browne. However he elected to give O'Brien a yellow card while allowing Browne to stay on the pitch. Within a minute Browne made Naas rue that decision. Ballynahinch kicked a penalty into the corner and from the line-out Browne was on hand to force his way over for a try. Reaney converted and Ballynahinch led 12-7. It got worse for Naas on 26 minutes. Aaron Cairns chipped in behind the Naas defence who failed to deal with the loose ball, before it was pounced on by Conal Boomer and he managed to get over for another try. Although Reaney missed this time with the conversion effort, the lead was extended to 17-7.

That was to be the final score of the half, leaving Naas with a lot of work to do in the second period. The home supporters felt there was some justice after 44 minutes when Peter Browne saw yellow for a high tackle, but were dismayed just three minutes later when James Simpson did not receive similar punishment for an even worse tackle on Niall Delahunt. However Naas made their numerical advantage pay on 49 minutes. Ballynahinch tried to run the ball close to their own goal-line, but a great steal by Andy Kearney set up a Naas chance. The ball was quickly moved out wide and James Cherrington dived over. The successful conversion by Peter Osborne reduced the lead to three points. Six minutes later Naas were in front. A storming rum by Conor Doyle saw him beat two tacklers, his inside pass was taken by Fionn Higgins who raced clear to score. The conversion by Osborne put Naas 21-17 in front.Within two minutes Naas lost Fionn Higgins to another yellow card for a late tackle, and on 60 minutes they relinquished the lead. A series of pick and drives around the fringe of the ruck by Ballynahinch took play right up to the Naas line, before Jerry Cronin got over for a crucial try. Reaney converted to give the Ulstermen a 24-21 lead.

Naas stormed back on the attack and were rewarded seven minutes from time. The Ballynahinch defence was stretched on a number of occasions, before they gave away a penalty for hands in the ruck. Peter Osborne made no mistake with his kick to level the scores.A draw looked a certainty as the game entered injury time but their was to be one final, cruel twist for Naas. As stated earlier their line-out did not function throughout the afternoon, and on 84 minutes it cost them dearly. Again they failed to secure possession from their own throw, the Ballynahinch forwards carried the ball forward, Reaney dropped back into the pocket, and with a sweetly struck drop kick he gained victory for the visitors. The full-time whistle was blown immediately afterwards, giving a result that is a big blow to the play-off hopes of Naas.

They have to wait a fortnight to make amends, with their next fixture away to Ballymena on Saturday, February 17th with a 2.30pm kick-off.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Ben O'Connor, Fionn Carr, James Cherrington, Niall Delahunt, Michael Skelton, Peter Osborne, Graham Reynolds, Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Cillian Dempsey, Will O'Brien, Andrew Kearney. 

Replacements: Charlie Kings, Stephen Lackey, Paulie Tolofua, Max Whittingham, Johne Murphy.

Ballynahinch: Conor Kelly, David Busby, Stuart Morrow, Tom Rock, Richard Reaney, Ryan Wilson, Aaron Cairns, Jerry Cronin, Clayton Milligan, Stuart Orr, Peter Browne, John Donnan, Keith Dickson, Josh Donaldson, Conal Boomer. 

Replacements: Zack McCall, Campbell Classon, James Simpson, Chris Gibson, Davy Nicholson.



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