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Naas 28 – Ballymena 3   13/10/2018

Having defeated Buccaneers, Naas continued their All Ireland League campaign when they entertained Ballymena last Saturday, and after a slow start a dominate second half performance saw them run out emphatic winners.

This game was played in dreadful conditions, with persistant rain hindering the players. To their credit they did not let affect them and handling errors were kept to the minimum despite the weather.

Like last week Naas again started brightly but this time around an early score was not forthcoming although they did come mighty close. Ballymena lost their hooker Jonny Spence to a yellow card  after only four minutes for a dangerous tackle. From the resulting penalty Naas kicked into the corner, set up a driving maul and although they got over the line referee Barrie O’Connell deemed the ball was held up and gave the home side a scrum. From this Naas moved the ball out to backs which resulted in Andy Ellis being stopped just inches short of the line and after another scrum a knock on gave Ballymena the chance to clear their lines.

Indeed the visitors were the first to score. On 14 minutes a high tackle by Paulie Tolofua saw him receive a yellow card and Ballymena a penalty which out-half Tim Small slotted to give them three points. It was to be their last score of the afternoon.

From there to the half-time break the Ulstermen had the majority of possession and at times it took some desperate Naas defence to keep them out. However they were made pay for not taking their chances when the home side struck just before the break. It started from a great midfield break by Andy Ellis, the forwards carried on the attack and Pierce Dargan was on hand to score beside the posts. Peter Osborne added the conversion and Naas led by 7-3 at the interval.

A vintage Naas attack almost extended the lead after 46 minutes. Ross Bailey Kearney gathered a ball deep in his own half and when he was tackled he passed to Adam Coyle. A series of great off loads took play into the Ballymena 22, but with the try line beckoning the final pass failed to go to hand and the visitors held out. Man of the match Andy Ellis was again close to scoring on 50 minutes, but seven minutes later Naas finally got the score their now complete dominance deserved. A great line-out take by Ryan Casey put the home side on the front foot, the ball was moved out along the backs and Johne Murphy showed great strength to barge over for a try. The conversion by Osborne gave Naas a 14-3 lead.

On 60 minutes the game was settled as a contest. Ballymena ran a ball on the half-way line but Andy Ellis intercepted and he was never going to be caught as he raced clear to score. Osborne again converted and the lead was now 21-3. The only question now was would Naas be able to get that all important fourth try to secure a bonus point. Although the home support had to wait until the very last minute it finally arrived, when following good work by the pack Johne Murphy again powered over, with the successful conversion by Osborne finishing the scoring, Naas the victors by 28-3.

So a dream start to the campaign for Naas with maximum points gained from two outings. Next up for them is another home fixture against Banbridge at 2.30pm on Saturday. This game will really test their credentials so all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Higgins, Ross Bailey Kearney, Johne Murphy, Andy Ellis, Peter Hastie, Richard Fahy, Conor Doyle, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Mike Russell, Pierce Dargan, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements: Cathal Duff, Jack Barry, Paul Monahan, Fionn Carr, Cillian Dempsey.

Ballymena: Matthew Norris, Dean Reynolds,, James Wheeler, Sam Millar, Mark Thompson, Tim Small, Glenn Baillie, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Christopher Cundell, J.J. McKee, Connor Smyth, Ryan Mattison, Willie McKay, Stephen Mulholland.

Replacements: James Taggert, Josh Bill, Jacques Bolger, Scott Willoughby, Jonny McMullen.



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