Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report from Naas V Queens - AIL Sat 30th March 2024

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Queen’s University 33 - Naas 31

Match Report: Mark Herbert

Photo: From the Archive.

Naas travelled up to Belfast last Saturday afternoon to face Queen’s University in the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B, knowing that a victory would secure their place in the division for another season. Alas, it was not to be, but after a narrow defeat the accumulation of try and losing bonus points leaves them in a strong position with just one fixture of the campaign remaining.

This game was played on the 4G pitch at the Newforge Lane Sports Complex, and it is a surface that lends itself to open, attractive rugby, which is ideal for both these sides who like to play an expansive game. The general opinion before the match was that this would be a very entertaining game, and that is certainly what we got.

Knowing that the relegation play-offs were in store if they lost Queen’s started with real intent and really took the game to Naas in the opening stages. They were rewarded for their fine start with a score after just five minutes. Big carries by Alexander Clarke and Jack Boal took play deep into Naas territory, before a long pass by Harvey Patterson found Callum Florence out wide right, and the latter finished off the move to score a try in the corner. James Humphreys added the conversion to leave the home side seven points in front. But Naas settled into the game and were on level terms after 15 minutes. From a line-out take by Muiris Cleary the pack drove Queen’s right back, before Will O’Brien managed to crash over from close range. Craig Ronaldson added the conversion.

Six minutes later and the home side were back in front. Naas were penalised for a high tackle and the subsequent penalty was dispatched to touch. The line-out was won by Charlie Irvine and Queen’s set up a driving maul which the visitors were powerless to stop, and led to James McKillop touching down for the try. Humphreys again kicked the conversion.

On 24 minutes it appeared that Queen’s were going to go further in front when they again set up a driving maul close to the Naas line. However this time the defence was rock solid and the home side were forced to abandon this plan of attack. Eventually their scrum-half Harvey Patterson put through a kick that was brilliantly gathered by Jack Sheridan, who then put in a fine clearance kick. Within three minutes Naas also had a great chance to score. A lovely soft pass by Craig Ronaldson put Donal Conroy away and he sprinted into the 22. When he was eventually stopped, Queen's were penalised for coming in at the side of the subsequent ruck, and the penalty was kicked to touch. David Benn won the line-out and Naas set up their own driving maul, but the home side held this up which eventually led to referee Paul Haycock awarding them a scrum and the chance for the visitors was gone.

But Naas did reduce the lead after 36 minutes. From a scrum on the ten-metre line Naas moved the ball into midfield, where Charlie Sheridan took a great line that sliced the defence apart, and he sprinted away for a great score. Although the conversion was missed, Naas now only trailed by just two points – 14-12. However Queen’s had the final say of the half, when in first half injury-time they again managed to get their driving maul working, which led to a try for Peter Heasley. This time Humphryes was not on target with the conversion, meaning that Queen’s led at the interval by 19 points to 12.

Naas started the second-half brightly and Craig Ronaldson had the misfortune to see his penalty attempt within 60 seconds of the resumption strike a post, and the same player was then narrowly wide with a long range effort after 50 minutes. Within a minute of this the home side were reduced to 14 men, when Harvey Patterson received a yellow card for taking Ronaldson out in the air, but after 56 minutes played Queen’s made light of their numerical disadvantage. They were awarded a scrum just outside the Naas 22, but the visitors pack made life difficult for them with a great drive. However, Robbie Johnston somehow managed to get the ball out of the scrum and he passed to Jonny Hunter. The latter took off on a mazy run, he managed to find a gap in the Naas defence and raced away to score under the posts. Humphreys kicked the conversion to make it 26-12.

Naas needed to respond quickly, and they did just that within 90 seconds. Donal Conroy made a great break down the blindside, he passed inside to Tadgh Brophy and when the latter was stopped Jack Sheridan was in support to take the pass and race away to score. Peter Osborne added the conversion to make it 26-19. However, after 64 minutes Naas again found themselves 14 points behind when good hands by the Queen’s backs, created space for Rory Telfer who finished off the move for a good try, which was again converted by Humphreys.

The visitors had to get something out of this game and to their credit they finished strongly. After 72 minutes quick thinking by Tadgh Brophy saw him take a tap penalty, completely catching the home defence unawares. Some good quick passes by the backs followed and led to Craig Ronaldson scoring a vital fourth try for Naas, before the try of the match by Donal Conroy after 76 minutes. When he gathered the ball on half-way there appeared to be little danger for the home defence. However he easily beat a couple of tackles before chipping over the remaining defence, he then gathered the loose ball and raced away to score. Sam Cahill converted this try to make it 33-31.

Queen’s were rattled, but Naas ran out of time to gain what would have been a tremendous victory, but they did leave with two very valuable bonus points. As stated, this leaves them in a strong position going into the final round of fixtures next Saturday afternoon. They are currently three points ahead of Queen’s, who have the difficult task of travelling to Old Wesley. Naas are at home to Old Belvedere so on paper have the easier task, but games are not played on paper so all support in Forenaughts next Saturday afternoon will be greatly appreciated. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.

Queen’s University: Rory Telfer, Jonny Hunter, Rory Ellerby, Callum Florence, Ben Gibson, James Humphreys, Harvey Patterson, Jack Boal, Alexander Clarke (capt), Matthew Miller, Jake McCay, Charlie Irvine, James McKillop, Peter Heasley, Tom Brigg. Replacements: George Coen, Andrew Clingan, Patrick McAlpine, Josh Stevens, Robbie Johnston, Angus Christie.

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

Referee: Paul Haycock.

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