Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report from Naas V Buccaneers - AIL Sat 2nd December 2023

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Naas 35 – Buccaneers 29

Match Report: Mark Herbert

Photos: Michael Silke Buccaneers RFC

The drama started before the Naas v Buccaneers 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B game even started last Saturday, and continued right up to the final whistle. Firstly, the pitch at Forenaughts, Naas failed an early morning inspection, necessitating a switch of venue to Tullow with a 4.30pm kick-off. Then before the game commenced, Naas were forced to make two late changes with Aidan O’Kane and Paul Monahan unable to play and they were ably replaced by Niall O’Hanlon and David Benn.

The all-weather pitch at Tullow lends itself to fast, open rugby and the first 40 minutes here was played at a frenetic pace, and both sides had tries on board within the opening six minutes. There were only three minutes played when Orinn Burgess made a break through the centre, he then offloaded to Stevie Mannion, who in turn passed to Gavin Daly who scored beside the posts for Buccaneers. However, Naas quickly responded when after a scrum on the 22, a fine backs move created space for Fionn Higgins who finished in style. Michael Hanley and Craig Ronaldson were both successful with their conversion attempts to make it seven points all.

Naas took the lead after 17 minutes. A brilliant break by Tadgh Brophy split the Buccaneers defence apart, before he found Jack Sheridan in support. When the latter was tackled Bucs were penalised for hands in the subsequent ruck and Craig Ronaldson made no mistake with his penalty effort. The lead was extended after 21 minutes with a sublime try by Naas. From a line-out win by the pack, Tadgh Brophy quickly moved the ball into the centre to Charlie Sheridan and his lovely reverse pass put Donal Conroy away, and he ran in unopposed to score under the posts. Ronaldson was again successful with the conversion and Naas now led by 17-7.

Buccaneers did reply with a Michael Hanley penalty after 24 minutes, but they made a complete mess of dealing with the restart and then compounded the error by conceding a penalty for giving backchat to referee Graham Ormiston. Naas went to touch with the penalty and from the line-out take by David Benn they set up a driving maul, which powered over the line. Conor Doyle emerged with the ball in his hands and the conversion by Craig Ronaldson made the score 24-10. The try bonus point was wrapped up for Naas after only 32 minutes, when a great line taken by Charlie Sheridan left the Bucs defence for dead. He then passed to his brother Jack, who sprinted clear for another score which Ronaldson converted.

With Naas now leading by 29 points to 10 a comfortable victory appeared on the cards. But it was not to be, and they will be annoyed with themselves for making life difficult for themselves. The concession of two tries on the stroke of half-time will particularly disappoint them. Firstly on 38 minutes a series of Buccaneers phases led to Liam McNamara crashing over from close range, and just ninety seconds later Josh O’Connor broke through a couple of tackles to score beside the posts. With Michael Hanley converted one of these tries, suddenly the game was back in the melting pot at 29-22 which proved to be the interval score.

The second half was a lot cagier, but Naas were by far the dominant side for the majority of it and should have had the game wrapped up long before the final whistle. Two Craig Ronaldson penalties after 48 and 57 minutes extended the lead to 35-22, but three times in this period Naas got over the Buccaneers try line but could not ground the ball for a score, that would have effectively ended the game as a contest.

These failures almost proved extremely costly. On 64 minutes Naas were reduced to 14 men when Cillian Dempsey received a yellow card for tackling Frankie Hopkins immediately after he had taken a quick tap penalty. Buccaneers then elected to take a scrum penalty and moved the ball wide left before Fionn Higgins was deemed to have deliberately knocked on the ball, and he also received a yellow card. Naas were now down to 13 men, and Buccaneers immediately launched a series of attacks which led to Matthew Victory crashing over from close range. The conversion by Stephen Mannion reduced the Naas lead to 35-29, and all the momentum with Bucs.

Now was the time for the Naas players to stand up and be counted and they certainly delivered in spades. Bucs threw everything at them in the closing stages in a desperate attempt to steal the game, but Naas refused to yield, and a momentous defence saw them hold out for victory. Although it was a game that could have been won convincingly, the main thing is that Naas got what they came for – five points. Onwards and upwards for them.

Next up for Naas is an away fixture against U.C.C. next Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Craig Ronaldson, Jack Sheridan, Bryan Croke (capt), Tadhg Brophy, Conor Doyle, Niall O’Hanlon, Stephen Lackey, Conor McVerry, David Benn, Cillian Dempsey, Muiris Cleary, Eoin Walshe. Replacements: Tadhg Dooley, Jack Coyle, Francisco Bartorelli Lagomar, Jack Rogers, Peter Osborne, Derry Lenehan.

Buccaneers: Liam McNamara, Josh O’Connor, Daniel Hawkshaw, Stephen Mannion, Orrin Burgess, Michael Hanley, Frankie Hopkins (capt), James Kelly, Matthew Victory, Matthew Burke, Fergus Galvin, Danny Qualter, Cathal Walsh, Gavin Daly, Cian McCann. Replacements: Dylan Bolger, Cian Daly, Luke Balsiger, Shane Layden, Conor O’Shaughnessy, Leo MacFarlane.

Referee: Graham Ormiston.

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