Naas RFC

Founded 1922

Co. Kildare

Match Report from Naas V Old Belvedere - AIL Sat 6th April 2024

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Naas 29 – Old Belvedere 34

Match Report: Mark Herbert

The final round of matches of the 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B season took place last Saturday afternoon, and for Naas there was still plenty to play for when they hosted Old Belvedere. They went into the game three points ahead of Queen’s University, so knew that a victory would secure their place in the division for another season no matter what happened elsewhere. But failure to win and the relegation trapdoor beckoned if Queen’s achieved an unlikely victory away to Old Wesley. Naas had to make a late change to their line up when their captain Donal Conroy was unable to play due to injury, with his place taken by Michal Haznar, and to compound their misfortune they also lost Paul Monahan to injury within sixty seconds of the start.

With Storm Kathleen in the region there was a gale force wind blowing, and Naas started with the advantage of this at their backs for the first half. They got off to a great start with a try after just three minutes. After Old Belvedere were penalised for handling in a ruck the subsequent penalty was dispatched to touch. From the line-out Naas quickly moved the ball into midfield where Craig Ronaldson sliced through the visitors defence, before passing to the supporting Tadgh Brophy who raced clear to score under the posts. Ronaldson added the conversion and he also kicked a penalty after seven minutes to give Naas a ten point lead.

But the hosts were rocked by the concession of a try after 13 minutes. Old Belvedere were awarded a penalty for hands in a ruck thirty yards from the posts, but the strength of the wind they were playing into meant that a shot at goal was not an option. They elected to go for touch and from the line-out they set up a driving maul which Naas were powerless to stop, and led to a try being scored by Calum Dowling. Into the wind David Wilkinson was unable to add the conversion.

Naas however increased their lead after 20 minutes when following a big carry by Michal Haznar, the ball was quickly recycled and moved out to Jack Sheridan who sidestepped an attempted tackle before scoring a fine try. Craig Ronaldson added the conversion to make it 17-5 to Naas.

But despite the strong wind at their backs that was to be the last score of the half for Naas. They lost Will O’Brien who received a yellow card for a high tackle after 26 minutes, but just as it looked like they were going to survive this period with a numerical disadvantage they conceded a try after 35 minutes. Naas failed to find touch with a penalty and Old Belvedere ran back at them with devastating effect. The ball was quickly moved out wide to winger Jack Keating, and he was stopped just short of the line. Their pack then took over, and a series of phases followed before Jayden Beckett crashed over from close range.

David Wilkinson again failed with his conversion attempt but in first half injury time his side drew level with Naas. They were awarded a penalty inside the Naas 22, and again turned down a shot at the posts and elected to run it. The home side did well to repel a couple of charges from close range, but finally Jacob Barrett managed to force his way over and with Wilkinson this time successful with the conversion it was 17 points all at the break.

Failing to take a first half lead with the advantage of a strong wind meant that it was looking ominous for Naas, but good news filtered through from Donnybrook that Old Wesley were leading Queen’s University by 26 points to nil, meaning that safety was all but secured for Naas.

Within four minutes of the restart Old Belvedere took the lead for the first time, when a series of missed tackles led to a Calum Dowling try which Wilkinson converted. It was a lead they were never to relinquish. Naas did reply after 63 minutes when the visitors lost Jayden Beckett to a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. The penalty for this offence was kicked to touch, and from the line-out the ball was moved out to the backs. Fionn Higgins then threw a long looping pass out to Jack Sheridan and he finished in style in the corner. Although the conversion by Craig Ronaldson was off target, Naas now only trailed by 24-22.

But Old Belvedere still had a chance of gaining a play-off spot and they were determined to grasp this with both hands. On 67 minutes they set up a driving maul which was collapsed, giving them a penalty and also seeing Connie Campher of Naas getting a yellow card. They elected to tap this penalty but some great defence by the home side held them out. However there was wave after wave of attacks and finally Cian Cunningham was able to get in under the posts for a try, which was converted by David Wilkinson. Naas were still not finished and a great, powerful drive by Muiris Cleary launched a move that led to Charlie Kings scoring. The successful conversion by Craig Ronaldson cut the margin to 31-29.

There was to be one more score on the afternoon and it was a vital one for the visitors. Three minutes into injury-time they were awarded a penalty, and the successful kick by David Wilkinson gained them a play-off position on scoring difference. Soon afterwards the full-time whistle blew, leading to jubilant celebrations for the visitors, who had emerged victorious by 34 points to 29.

So it was a defeat for the home side, but the news from Donnybrook was good with Old Wesley winning by 53-15, meaning that Naas will again play in Division 1B next season. With an extremely young side there is a lot to look forward to for that campaign and beyond. To all the players and coaching staff, a big thank you for all the entertainment provided throughout the season.

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

Old Belvedere: Gavin Nugent, Jack Keating, Jayden Beckett, Joe White, Ariel Robles, David Wilkinson, Saul Fitzpatrick, Jacob Barrett, Calum Dowling (capt), Hugh Flood, Fionn McWey, Connor Owende, James Doyle, Tom Mulcair, Kale Thatcher. Replacements: Cian Cunningham, Hugh Hogan, Paddy Dowling, Evan O’Boyle, Jack Dunne, Sean Donovan.

Referee: Christopher Lough

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