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Naas 40 - Ballymena 15 2017-04-16 22:20:00

Naas 40 - Ballymena 15

A scintillating second half display saw Naas overcome Ballymena last Saturday and at the same time book their place in the play-offs for promotion. The second forty minutes must rank as the best played by Naas this season and leaves them in great fettle for the challenges ahead before the campaign ends.

Summer arrived in Naas last Saturday and a large crowd basked in glorious conditions for this game. It was the visitors who made a bright start and for long spells of the opening half looked the better side.

They opened the scoring after only three minutes. After winning a penalty they kicked into the corner and formed a driving maul from the line-out. They were able to push Naas back leading to their hooker Adam McBurney getting over for a try. Another score followed on the half an hour mark. A sniping break by David Shanahan took play up to the Naas 22, the ball was moved out to Jonny Rossborough who bounded clear to score in the corner. The conversion attempt by Richie McMaster hit the post but Ballymena led 10-0.

Naas has to respond quickly and they did within three minutes. After superbly fielding a high kick, Ben O'Connor evaded a couple of tackles before Ballymena eventually halted him. Naas quickly moved the ball out wide to Peter Howard who showed great strength to score in the corner. This was to be the last score of the half leaving Ballymena ahead by 10-5 at the break. However a blistering start to the second half by Naas soon had them in control.

After just 90 seconds of the resumption Naas had struck. Following a great break by Eoin Walsh, the ball was given to Ben O'Connor who sprinted for the line. He may have scored himself but to make sure of the he passed to Ben Swindlehurst who finished off a great move. The conversion by Peter Osborne put Naas in the lead for the first time 12-10.

Within six minutes Naas had scored another two tries. Following a quick tap penalty Naas caught the Ballymena defence cold and Conor Doyle was on hand to crash over the line. The visitors had not come to terms with this score when they conceded again. They ran the ball on the half-way line but Peter Howard intercepted. There was no way he was going to be stopped and he raced clear to score. With Peter Osborne converting both tries Naas led 26-10.

Then was to come a very poignant score. When these sides met last September, Fionn Higgins suffered a serious leg injury. After a lot of hard work and no little determination he made his return to action here. A score by him would certainly round a fairytale return and amazingly it was to come. Naas won a good ruck ball near the 22 and Michael Skelton with a superb cross field kick found Higgins who fielded the ball and scored. The tremendous ovation he received was fully merited and showed that everybody present fully appreciated the magnificent effort by the player. The conversion by Peter Osborne made it 33-10 to Naas.

The game was now over as a contest but there was still to be another two scores. Firstly Adrian Hamilton got a consolation score for Ballymena, before Fionn Higgins added his second try for the home side. This was a replica of his previous try, fielding a delightful cross field kick by Michael Skelton. The conversion by Ben Swindlehurst rounded off the scoring with Naas winning 40-15.

This was a fine display by Naas and special mention must go to the front row of Conor Doyle, Conor Johnson and Adam Coyle. With a combined age of less than 60 they showed that their is some amount of young talent around at the moment. This victory moved qNaas up to third and booked their play-off berth. Who they play in this will be decided after the final round of games next weekend, with Naas travelling to face Galwegians in Galway next Saturday with a 2.30pm kick-off.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Ben O'Connor, Johne Murphy, Ben Swindlehurst, Peter Howard, Michael Skelton, Max Whittingham, Conor Doyle, Conor Johnson, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Cillian Dempsey, Andrew Kearney, Eoin Walsh. Replacements: Warren Larkin, Jason Harney, Paul Tolofua, Henry Bryce, Fionn Higgins.

Ballymena: Richie McMaster, Matthew Norris, Josh McIlroy, Glenn Baille, Jonny Rossborough, John Creighton, David Shanahan, Josh Bill, Adam McBurney, Chris Cundell, David Wann, Conor Smyth, James Gallagher, Conal Boomer, Adrian Hamilton. Replacements: James Taggart, Andrew Ferguson, Mark Foster, Alan Smyth, Nicholas Sterling.



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