Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report from Naas V Highfield - AIL Sat 16th Dec 2023

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Naas 12 – Highfield 13

Match Report: Mark Herbert

Photos: Michael Linehan

The common thread of Naas fixtures in the 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B this season has been the high scoring nature of the games. Last Saturday’s home match against Highfield bucked this thread as only 25 points were scored by both teams combined. This was due to a strong wind which saw a lot of kicking taking place, and the refusal of the visitors to move the ball wide, relying instead on their big pack. The forward battle here was intriguing, and it finished with honours even – Naas shading the battle in the scrum and Highfield on top in the line-outs.

Naas had the advantage of the elements in the first half, and they had the first scoring opportunity after four minutes. Highfield were penalised for a side entry at a ruck, but Peter Osborne was narrowly wide with his penalty attempt. The home side were punished for this miss after 11 minutes. A Highfield penalty was dispatched to touch and the subsequent line-out was taken by Eoin Keating. A driving maul was then set up which Naas were unable to contain, and the visitors crashed over for a try which was awarded to Travis Coomey. Shane Buckley kicked a fine conversion into the wind and Highfield led by seven points to nil.

Naas had a great chance to get their first score of the afternoon on 23 minutes when they awarded a penalty deep in the Highfield 22. They elected to take a scrum and got the nudge on before the scrum collapsed, but to the bemusement of the large attendance, the referee Sam Holt awarded the penalty to the visitors.

But the home side kept battling away and were nearly in for a try after 38 minutes when a brilliant break by Bryan Croke sliced the visitors defence apart, but he then lost his footing and Highfield were able to scramble back. However just two minutes later that first score for Naas finally came. Peter Osborne fielded a clearance kick by Jamie Shanahan on half-way, he passed inside to Fionn Higgins, who in turn found Charlie Sheridan. A deft sidestep by the latter took him clear, and when was stopped just outside the 22 the Naas forwards were on hand to quickly recycle the ball. The ball was then moved wide right out to Donal Conroy, who finished the move in the corner. Although Peter Osborne was off target with his conversion attempt, Naas were right back in the game at 7-5, which proved to be the interval score.

However, within nine minutes of the restart Naas found themselves further behind. The home side were penalised for a no arms tackle, and Shane Buckley made no mistake with the resulting penalty to make it 10 points to five in favour of the visitors.

But just four minutes later Naas were in front for the first time. When Bryan Croke received the ball forty yards out there appeared to be no immediate danger for the Highfield defence. However, he managed to beat two despairing tackles before off-loading to Donal Conroy. The latter did well to catch the ball before touching down for a fine score. Peter Osborne knocked over the conversion and Naas led by 12-10.

The visitors snatched victory on 67 minutes. Following a long period of Highfield pressure, Naas were penalised for a high tackle and from in front of the posts, Travis Coomey held his nerve to nudge the visitors in front by 13-12. Try as they might in the remaining minutes Naas could not engineer a scoring opportunity, and the Highfield held on to take an important away victory.

This was the final match for Naas in 2023 and brings the league campaign to the half-way mark. After a slow start they have done well to climb up to fifth in the table, and put themselves in a position to make a serious charge at the play-off places next year. There is plenty to look forward to. The league resumes on January 13th when Naas travel to Highfield for the return fixture. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Craig Ronaldson, Fionn Higgins, Bryan Croke (capt), Derry Lenehan, Conor Doyle, Niall O’Hanlon, Adam Coyle, David Benn, Conor McVerry, Cillian Dempsey, Muiris Cleary, Eoin Walshe. Replacements: Aidan O’Kane, Jack Coyle, Francisco Bartorelli Lagomar, Gary Kavanagh, Jack Sheridan, Tadgh Brophy.

Highfield: Jamie Shanahan, Timothy Duggan, Ben Murphy, David O’Sullivan, Colm O’Neill, Shane Buckley, Chris Banon, James Rochford, Travis Coomey, Daragh Fitzgerald, David O’Connell, Eoin Keating, Ross Anthony O’Neill, Mark Fitzgibbon, Miah Cronin (capt). Replacements: Robert Murphy, Cillian Buckley, John O’Callaghan, Liam Fahy, Richard Cassidy, Shane O’Riordan.

Referee: Sam Holt.

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