Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report from Naas V Old Wesley - AIL Sat 23rd March

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Naas 20 – Old Wesley 39

Match Report: Mark Herbert

Photos: Michael Linehan

For 65 minutes of their home fixture against Old Wesley last Saturday afternoon, Naas were in great position to secure the victory that would guarantee their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B status for another season. However, a four try blitz by their opponents in just ten minutes during the closing stages, meant that the home side will have to wait at least another week before their safety is secured.

With a break for the Six-Nations Championship this was a first game in three weeks for both sides, but there was no sign of any rustiness as they both attacked at every given opportunity, providing a very enjoyable spectacle for the large crowd in attendance.

Victory was also imperative for Old Wesley in their bid for a play-off spot and they created the first scoring chance after just two minutes. Eoin Deegan attacked down the right wing, beating a couple of tacklers as he moved into midfield. When he was finally stopped Naas were penalised for hands in the ruck and Ian Cassidy successfully kicked the resultant penalty.

The home side almost hit the front after ten minutes when a great driving maul by their pack took play over the Old Wesley line, but the ball was held up and the referee Stuart Gaffikin awarded the visitors a goal-line drop-out. But Naas did take the lead six minutes later. Jack Sheridan collected a clearance kick from Nathan Randles on half-way and immediately decided to attack. He took play up to the Old Wesley 22 before passing to his brother Charlie, who in turn found James O’Loughlin lurking out wide on the left wing. There was no stopping the big lock forward who showed great strength to score in the corner. A tremendous conversion by Craig Ronaldson put Naas 7-3 in front.

This lead was extended after 31 minutes. Old Wesley attacked on the half-way line, but a stray pass was quickly pounced on by Sam Cahill who fly-kicked it ahead. Alex Molloy won the chase for the loose ball but he was penalised for holding on and Craig Ronaldson made no mistake from close range to make it 10-3 to Naas.

But the visitors restored parity just on half-time. Eoin Deegan took a great line which split the Naas defence apart and although the home side scrambled back, they were penalised at the subsequent ruck. Old Wesley declined a shot at goal and went to touch instead. From the line-out they set up a driving maul which Naas did well to contain, but Howard Noonan managed to break from the side of it and dive over for the score. Ian Cassidy converted to make it 10-all, which proved to be the half-time score.

Cassidy was again on target with a penalty within a minute of the resumption to put Old Wesley back in front, and only some tremendous defence by Naas prevented them from going further in front after 46 minutes. The visitors were camped on the Naas line for a number of phases, but the defence never buckled, and the home side weathered the storm.

Craig Ronaldson restored parity with a penalty after 55 minutes and straight from the restart Old Wesley were reduced to 14 men, when Eoin Deegan received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. Within four minutes Naas exploited their numerical advantage. They pulled the Wesley defence apart, switching play from one wing to the other, until they created an overlap on the right wing which Fionn Higgins finished in the corner. Another tremendous conversion by Craig Ronaldson put Naas 20-13 in front.

The home side looked like winners at that stage, but nobody counted for an extraordinary ten minutes from Old Wesley in which they scored no less than 26 points. It all started on 65 minutes when they were awarded a penalty deep in the Naas 22. They turned down the shot at goal and instead elected to tap. This decision was rewarded when Cronan Gleeson found a gap in the Naas defence to score from close range. Then on 69 minutes following a series of pick and goes from the Wesley pack, they elected to move the ball out to the left wing where Eoin Deegan was stationed, and he got in at the corner. Cassidy converted both tries to put Wesley back in front by 27 points to 20. Then straight from the kick-off Sam Kenny gathered and attacked down the right wing. He was able to link up with his supporting players, and before Naas got their defence formation back in place, Nathan Randles was racing down the left wing to score. Cassidy again converted.

Naas were shell shocked by the concession of these scores, and it was no surprise when Eoin Murphy got in for another Wesley try on 75 minutes. To their credit Naas never stopped trying and both Derry Lenehan and Craig Ronaldson were within inches of scoring in the closing stages, which would have given the scoreboard a more respectable look. But it was not to be, and Old Wesley ran out winners by 39 points to 20.

As stated, Naas with two games remaining in the campaign, need one more victory to secure their divisional status for next season. They are currently six points ahead of Queen’s University who they travel to face next Saturday, in what is a huge game for both clubs. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always, all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Jack Sheridan, Donal Conroy (capt), Charlie Sheridan, Sam Cahill, Craig Ronaldson, Tadgh Brophy, Conor Doyle, Niall O’Hanlon, Stephen Lackey, David Benn, James O’Loughlin, Conor McVerry, Will O’Brien, Eoin Walsh. Replacements: Tadgh Dooley, Connie Campher, Paul Monahan, Muiris Cleary, Derry Lenehan, Ethan Travers.

Old Wesley: Nathan Randles, Eoin Murphy, Alex Molloy, Eoin Deegan, Fergus Jemphrey, Ian Cassidy, Ben Stephens, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Glesson, Reuben Pim, David Motyer, Cathal Kelly, Josh Pim, Will Fay. Replacements: Kieran O’Shea, Sam Kenny, Liam O’Neill, Sam Pim, Keith Kavanagh, Bill Corrigan.

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin.

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