Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report Naas V St. Marys -AIL Saturday 2nd March 2024

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St. Mary’s College 31 – Naas 17

Match Report: Mark Herbert

Photos: Naas Rugby Photographs

Naas travelled to Templeville Road last Saturday to face St. Mary’s College in the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B, knowing that a daunting task was ahead of them. St. Mary’s had already wrapped up the league with four games to spare, losing just one match all season. With the trophy and medals due to be presented after the game there was a party atmosphere at the venue, with a huge home support turning up expecting to see their side produce a performance fitting of champions, and for them to blow the Naas challenge away. To their credit the visitors had other ideas and gave as good as they got from the champions for three quarters of the game, only fading in the latter stages.

This fixture survived a late pitch inspection and went ahead, albeit with a deferred kick-off time of 5.15pm, and not surprisingly after all the rain that had fallen the conditions were extremely testing for the players. The home side started brightly, forcing Naas on the backfoot and were in front after just three minutes. Richie Fahy attacked down the left wing and passed to Mark Fogarty, before taking the return pass and racing clear to score under the posts. The initial pass looked decidedly forward, but to the dismay of the Naas supporters referee Andrew Mitchell was happy with it and allowed the score to stand. Mick O’Gara tapped over the conversion to give Mary’s a seven-point lead.

They went further in front after 14 minutes. From a line-out win on the ten-metre line a big driving maul by the Mary’s pack took play into the Naas 22. The ball was then moved out to the backs and a long cut-out pass by Conor Dean found Conor Hayes out wide. Naas will be disappointed that the Mary’s full-back was not stopped, but he managed to shrug off a couple of tackles before racing away to score. Although O’Gara missed the conversion, Mary’s led by 12 points to nil.

Naas needed to raise their game or this contest was going to get away from them, and to their credit they did just that. Their pack really took it to the home side with the likes of James O’Loughlin, Muiris Cleary and Conor Doyle driving with force and forcing their opponents backwards. This led to Mick McCormack receiving a yellow card after 22 minutes for a high tackle and straight away Naas made their numerical advantage count. The penalty was dispatched to touch by Craig Ronaldson and from the line-out win by David Benn a driving maul was set up. This took play right up to the Mary’s line and when it was stopped Naas went through the phases, before moving the ball out wide to Jack Sheridan. The Naas winger stepped inside an attempted challenge before scoring and with Sam Cahill converting the visitors were right back in the match, trailing by just 12 points to seven.

The scores were all square after 29 minutes. Mary’s attempted to run a ball on half-way but the attack broke down. Quick as a flash Donal Conroy fly-kicked the ball ahead, he then showed some soccer skills to dribble the ball over the line, before touching down for the score. Although the conversion attempt by Sam Cahill was narrowly wide, the scores were level at 12 points all.

The home side however were to have the final say of the half. On 38 minutes Naas were penalised for holding on in a ruck and the penalty was kicked to touch. From the line-out Mary’s set up a driving maul that Naas were powerless to stop, and they crashed over for a try which was awarded to Jack Nelson Murray. The conversion was missed by Mick O’Gara and soon afterwards the half-time whistle was blown, with Mary’s leading by 17 points to 12.

Naas started the second-half brightly, really taking the game to the champions. They dominated both possession and territory and were rewarded with a fine score after 54 minutes. A sublime break by Craig Ronaldson carved open the Mary’s defence and took play deep into the 22. The forwards then battered away before releasing the ball to the backs. Some quick hands transferred the ball out to Charlie Sheridan who was lurking out wide, and he was not to be stopped from scoring in the corner. Although Sam Cahill missed the very difficult conversion, the scores were again level at 17 points all.

Naas almost went in front after 59 minutes. The home side were penalised for a high tackle and the visitors decided to have a shot at goal from just inside the Mary’s half. Sam Cahill struck the penalty extremely well, but it fell just short and the home side were able to clear. From there to the finish though Mary’s took over. On 68 minutes a brilliant kick from Conor Dean won them a 50-22 and from the line-out they set up a driving maul which Naas defended well. The ball was then moved out wide and it took a great try saving tackle by Charlie Sheridan on Myles Carey to prevent a score. However, almost immediately following a series of phases by the Mary’s pack, Liam Corcoran picked up close to the line and managed to force his way over for a try. Mick O’Gara converted and Mary’s were back in front by 24-17.

Then on 72 minutes a long probing kick by Conor Dean was not dealt with by the Naas defence, and the ball fell kindly for the on-rushing Mark Fogarty, who gleefully pounced on the loose ball to score. O’Gara again converted and it took a brilliant interception by Niall O’Hanlon to avoid the concession of another score by Naas just on the full-time whistle. To concede another score would have been unfair on Naas, and would have given an unjust scoreline to the game. As it was, soon afterwards the referee blew the full-time whistle with Mary’s victorious by 31 points to 17.

Although defeated, Naas can take plenty of positives out of this game. For over 60 minutes they looked every bit as good as the champions, and on this performance it will not be long before they regain the winning thread. Next up for them is a home fixture against Old Wesley. This is on March 23rd with a 2.30pmkick-off, and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.

St Mary’s College: Conor Hayes, Mark Fogarty, Myles Carey, Mick O’Gara, Steven Kilgallen, Conor Dean, Richie Fahy, Jack Reidy-Walsh, Jack Nelson Murray, Mick McCormack (capt), Daniel Leane, Ian Wickham, Ben Taylor, Ethan Baxter, Conor Pierce. Replacements: Cameron Stewart, Thomas O’Reilly, Liam Corcoran, Finn Burke, Adam McEvoy, Leandro Ramirez.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Jack Sheridan, Donal Conroy (capt), Charlie Sheridan, Sam Cahill, Craig Ronaldson, Derry Lenehan, Conor Doyle, Neil O’Hanlon, Adam Coyle, David Benn, James O’Loughlin, Paul Monahan, Muiris Cleary, Connor McVerry. Replacements: Francisco Bartorelli, Stephen Lackey, Evan Coyle, Eoin Walsh, Tadhy Brophy, Ethan Travers.

Referee: Andrew Mitchell.

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