ENERGIA All-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Match Report: Mark Herbert.
Photos: John Crothers & by kind permission of Blackrock College RFC
Blackrock College 32 – Naas 29
Another week of the 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B campaign, and another drama filled game with Naas involved. Seven days after that unforgettable comeback victory against Garryowen, Naas travelled to face Blackrock College last Saturday afternoon, and it was a contest that was not decided until late in injury time. Naas will rue the fact that defeat was to be their lot, as they were the better side for the majority of the match, dominating both possession and territory.
Naas were forced to make a late change with Sam Cahill coming in to replace Fionn Higgins, and they were rocked by the concession of a try after just five minutes. After a series of pick and drives by the Blackrock pack, scrum-half Oliver Coffey picked up from the base of a ruck, and he broke clear to score under the posts. Coffey converted his own try to give his side a seven-point lead.
Sam Cahill reduced this deficit with a penalty after nine minutes, which was awarded for a high tackle on Gary Kavanagh, but the visitors conceded another try on 14 minutes. After being harshly penalised for collapsing a scrum, Blackrock kicked the subsequent penalty deep into the Naas 22. From the line-out they set up a driving maul which Naas did well to halt just short of the line. Blackrock then pounded away at the Naas line, before moving the ball into midfield to Liam Turner who powered over to score. Coffey was again successful with the conversion to make it 14-3 in favour of the home side.
That lead was increased to 21-3 after 21 minutes. From a line-out win on the ten-metre line, Blackrock moved the ball out to Dave McCarthy in the centre. His lovely inside pass to the on rushing Graham Curtis split the Naas defence apart, and the latter was not touched as he scored under the posts. Coffey again successfully converted.
Naas had given themselves a mountain to climb again, but they took over for the remainder of the half. They gained a foothold in their opponent’s half and were rewarded with a fine score after 28 minutes. From a scrum on the Blackrock 22, Naas attacked out to the left and a powerful run by Jack Sheridan almost got him in at the corner. The ball was quickly recycled and moved into midfield where Peter King was unstoppable from close range and powered over. Sam Cahill added the conversion, and he was again on mark after 34 minutes following another Naas try. This time following a high tackle by Roy Whelan – for which he received a yellow card – the visitors elected to turn down a shot at goal and went for touch. From the line-out Naas set up a driving maul that Blackrock could not stop and the pack crashed over for a try, which was awarded to Aidan O’Kane. As stated, Sam Cahill converted the try to make it 21-17, which proved the interval score.
Naas continued to be the better side in the early stages of the second half, and despite conceding another three points after 49 minutes when Oliver Coffey kicked a penalty for Blackrock, they were very close to levelling the scores on 57 minutes. Following some powerful drives by the Naas pack, Connie Campher charged over the Blackrock line, but could not ground the ball and the home side received a goal line drop-out.
However, the home side were struggling to contain Naas, and at times were resorting to cynical and desperate tactics to stay in front. Finally the referee Henry Richmond had enough, and after 62 minutes he brandished a yellow card to Oliver Coffey for a deliberate knock-on, and immediately Naas exploited their numerical advantage. They elected to tap the penalty, a series of powerful carries by the pack sucked in the Blackrock defence, before the ball was moved out to the right wing where Peter Osborne squeezed in at the corner. Although the conversation was narrowly missed, Naas only trailed now by 24-22.
But, on only their second visit to the Naas 22 in the second half, Blackrock scored again after 67 minutes. Playing with a penalty advantage after Naas had collapsed a driving maul, the Blackrock out-half James Fennelly put in a crossfield kick that was gathered by Brian Colclough, and he found the supporting Graham Curtis at his shoulder, who dived over for a try. Fennelly missed the subsequent conversion, leaving the score 29-22 in favour of the home side.
Naas came again. Blackrock ran a ball from half-way with three minutes left, but Jack Sheridan managed to intercept brilliantly and passed to Peter Osborne. The latter showed great pace to take play into the visitors 22, but when stopped his attempted offload was cynically knocked away by Odhran Ring. Referee Henry Richmond had no hesitation in showing the Blackrock player a yellow card and awarding Naas a penalty try, which levelled the scores at 29 points each.
But Naas lost the game in injury-time. A big charge by Gav Thornberry took play up to the Naas 22 and following a series of phases by the home pack, Naas were penalised for not rolling away. Up stepped Oliver Coffey and holding his nerve he slotted the resulting penalty. Almost immediately the full-time whistle was blown and Naas had suffered an agonising defeat.
Despite the result a lot of positives can be taken from this display. The performance by the pack was immense, with the likes of Aidan O’Kane, Connor McVerry, Muiris Cleary and Eoin Walsh particularly impressive. Certainly Naas have played worse and won games, and they can look forward to the remainder of the campaign with great anticipation.
Next up for Naas is a home fixture against Buccaneers on Saturday, December 2nd. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.
Blackrock College: Brian Colclough (capt), Graham Curtis, Liam Turner, Dave McCarthy, Matthew Dawn, James Fennelly, Oliver Coffey, Paul McSweeney, Niall Hardiman, Shane Connolly, Roy Whelan, Gav Thornbury, Josh Dixon, Dave Fortune, Odhran Ring. Replacements: Liam Nicholson, Andrew Savage, Louis Keys, James Burke, James Morarity, Liam McMahon.
Naas: Sam Cahill, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Gary Kavanagh, Jack Sheridan, Bryan Croke (capt), Tadhg Brophy, Stephen Lackey, Aidan O’Kane, Peter King, Paul Monahan, Conor McVerry, Eoin Walsh, Muiris Cleary, Sean O’Brien. Replacements: Tadhg Dooley, Connie Campher, Francisco Bartorelli Lagomar, Jack Rodgers, Peter Osborne, Derry Lenehan.
Referee: Henry Richmond.