ENERGIA All-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Highfield 50 – Naas 12
Match Report: Mark Herbert
Photos: Naas Rugby Photographs
The 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B resumed last Saturday, with Naas travelling to Woodleigh Park in Cork to face Highfield. Naas have a poor record at this venue over the years and unfortunately it was not improved here, as they suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Corkmen.
Naas needed to get off to a quick start, but it was the home side who dominated the early exchanges and were 14 points in front by the fifth minute. There were only 62 seconds played when they scored their first try. Eoin Keating made a powerful charge into the Naas 22, the ball was then quickly recycled out to the backs and centre Ben Murphy crashed over from close range. Then after five minutes Naas were penalised for holding on in a ruck, and the subsequent penalty was dispatched to touch. From the line-out Highfield set up their famed driving maul which Naas did well to contain, but the ball was shifted to prop Daragh Fitzgerald who powered over for another try. With Shane Buckley converting both tries, Highfield led by 14 points to nil.
To their credit Naas raised their game and fought their way right back into contention. They took the game to the home side and when Highfield were penalised after 11 minutes for handling in a ruck, Same Cahill stepped up and successfully slotted the resulting penalty. Four minutes later he was again on target with another penalty which was awarded for a high tackle on Charlie Sheridan, and he kept his 100% record intact after 20 minutes, when dissecting the posts with another penalty awarded after the Highfield scrum-half Chris Bannon slapped the ball out of the hands of Tadgh Brophy.
Suddenly it was only 14-9 to Highfield and game on again. But that is as good as it got for Naas. The home side got on top up front and Naas were forced to play second fiddle for the remainder of the afternoon. Shane Buckley extended the lead with a penalty after 29 minutes, and then Naas were hit with a huge blow just on the half-time whistle. Some powerful surges by the Highfield pack took play deep into the Naas 22 and the award of a penalty. Playing with the penalty advantage Shane Buckley put in a crossfield kick, this was batted down by Jamie Shanahan into the path of Ben Murphy who scored. The conversion by Buckley made the score 24-9 at the interval.
Within a minute of the restart Sam Cahill reduced the margin with his fourth successful penalty of the afternoon to make it 24-12, but on 48 minutes the game was ended as a contest. Naas conceded a five-yard scrum, and a powerful surge by the Highfield pack led to them being awarded a penalty try by referee Eddie Hogan O’Connell.
The game was played in bitterly cold conditions but the referee found a novel way of trying to keep himself warm, as in the last quarter he continually reached into his pocket to brandish yellow cards. He did this on no less than four occasions – three of them to Naas players – for very minor offences. The remainder of the game continued to belong to Highfield. A series of missed tackles led to a Ross Anthony O’Neill try on 61 minutes, which was converted by Buckley, and a powerful driving maul by the home side saw Robert Murphy being awarded a try which this time was converted by Shane O’Riordan.
There was still time for one final score, with Miah Cronin capitalised on an overthrown Naas line-out to gather the loose ball and crash over for a seventh Highfield try on the day. Shane O’Riordan converted to leave the final score, 50-12 in favour of Highfield, a scoreline that in no way flattered them.
Naas will have to regroup quickly and they get the chance to make amends for this performance when they entertain another Cork side – U.C.C. – next Saturday afternoon, January 19th. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.
Highfield: Jamie Shanahan, Eoin Dorgan, Ben Murphy, David O’Sullivan, Colin 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, Richard Cassidy, Ryan Murphy, Shane O’Riordan.
Naas: Fionn Higgins, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Craig Ronaldson, Sam Cahill, Bryan Croke (capt), Tadhg Brophy, Adam Coyle, Neil O’Hanlon, Peter King, David Benn, Conor McVerry, Paul Monahan, Muiris Clearly, Eoin Walsh. Replacements: Conor Doyle, Stephen Lackey, Cillian Dempsey, Francisco Bartorelli, Jack Sheridan, Derry Lenehan.
Referee: Eddie Hogan O’Connell.
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