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Naas 30 - Old Wesley 25 2017-12-12 18:50:00

Anyone following Naas this season has become accustomed to dramatic finishes. However for pure drama it will be hard to top the finish to their AIL game against Old Wesley last Saturday. Naas came into the contest on the back of a very poor display against Old Belvedere, and straight from the kick-off looked very determined to make amends. But Wesley are in great form at present and it set up an intriguing contest.

Naas came out of the blocks fast and by 15th minute had built up a ten point lead. They first made the scoreboard operator work after four minutes. Their scrum drove the Wesley pack backwards and referee Paul Haycock had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, which Johne Murphy slotted over. Then following a line-out win by David Benn, Paulie Tolofua sliced through the Wesley defence. When he was hauled down close to the line the ball was quickly moved out the back-line to Niall Delahunt, who marked his AIL debut by scoring. With Murphy adding the conversion Naas had established that ten point lead.

Wesley struck back immediately. Straight from the restart they gathered possession, which led to them winning a penalty at a subsequent ruck. They turned down a shot at goal and elected to run it quickly. This caught the Naas defence napping and saw David Poff going in unopposed for a try which Eoghan O'Reilly converted.

From there to the half-time break Wesley were the better side but only had an O'Reilly penalty on 23 minutes to show for their dominance. The same player had a chance on 38 minutes to give the visitors the lead but he dragged his penalty attempt wide, and the sides were level at 10-10 at the interval.

A flurry of scores came in the second-half and kept the crowd richly entertained. Wesley took the lead for the first time after 48 minutes. Some poor tackling by the Naas defence saw James O'Donovan score a soft try from the home side perspective, and with O'Reilly adding the conversion Wesley led 17-10.

However Naas only trailed for three minutes. They went through a number of phases, and following this Michael Skelton was on hand to exploit a gap in the Wesley defence to score a fine try. The conversion by Peter Osborne levelled the scores up.

Naas received a big blow on 59 minutes. Johne Murphy was adjudged to have handled in a ruck which saw him receiving a yellow card, and led to O'Reilly restoring the Wesley lead with a successful penalty attempt.

However while down to 14 men Naas took charge and actually finished this ten minute period in front. On 65 minutes Peter Osborne knocked over a penalty that was won by a great Naas scrum, and the same player was again on target two minutes later after Wesley strayed offside at a ruck, to put Naas 23-20 in front.

The seesaw nature of this contest continued as Wesley regained the lead on 67 minutes. They won a line-out inside the Naas 22, and a well worked move saw Conor Maguire just make the line to score despite the best efforts of the Naas defence. With O'Reilly missing the conversion the home side trailed by 25-23.

With Peter Osborne narrowly missing a long range penalty attempt on 72 minutes, Naas went into injury-time still behind and hope of a victory was fading fast.

But with the referee playing six minutes of added time they snatched victory with the very last play of the game. When Naas chipped the ball in behind the Wesley defence it appeared as if they had kicked away possession and the game. However Rory Stynes appeared in two minds what to do with the loose ball, and while he pondered his options, Fionn Higgins crept up his blind side and touched down for the match winning score. From the sideline Peter Osborne brilliantly converted, and  straight away the referee blew the final whistle.

Not surprisingly the home support celebrated jubilantly as the Old Wesley players slumped despondently to the ground. It was a cruel way for them to lose, but credit to Naas they played right to the final whistle, and never stopped believing that they could win this game.

Wesley only have a week to wait in their bid for revenge as the sides do battle again next Saturday. That game is in Donnybrook with a 2.30pm kick-off, and all support would be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Shane Thompstone, Johne Murphy, James Cherrington, Niall Delahunt, Michael Skelton, Max Whittingham, Stephen Lackey, Graham Reynolds, Jordan Duggan, Stephen Kinneavy, David Benn (capt), Andrew Kearney, Warren Larkin, Paulie Tolofua. 

Replacements: Shane Reilly, Charlie Kings, Colm Gorry, Ross Bailey Kearney, Peter Osborne.

Old Wesley: Rory Stynes (capt), Jack Maybury, James O'Donovan, David Poff, Eoghan O'Reilly, Tim Clifford, Aaron Atkinson, Cronan Gleeson, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Kieran Murphy, JJ O'Dea, Conor Barry, Stephen Boyle, Mathew Bursey. 

Replacements: Craig Telford, Martin Gately, John Fitzgerald, Paul Harte, Adam Kennedy.



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