ENERGIA All-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Naas 35 – Old Wesley 39
Match Report - Mark Herbert - Photos - Michael Linehan
Naas brought their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B campaign to a conclusion when they entertained Old Wesley last Saturday afternoon. The visitors needed victory to give themselves a chance of gaining a play-off spot, with Naas having nothing but pride to play for. With both sides endeavouring to run the ball at every possible opportunity, the large crowd present on a glorious afternoon were treated to a spectacular game of rugby, with no less than 74 points scored.
Naas were forced to make a late change to their side when Ryan Casey was injured in the warm-up, with Cillian Dempsey called in to take his place, and within two minutes the latter opened the scoring. After a great kick by Craig Ronaldson gave Naas a line-out ten metres out, a driving maul was set up, which Old Wesley were powerless to stop and Dempsey emerged from the pile of bodies over the line with the ball. Ronaldson added the conversion and Naas led by seven points.
The home side could not have dreamed of a better start as within another four minutes they had scored their second try. A lovely chip through by Charlie Sheridan led to a foot race which Andrew Osborne won to touchdown, and with Ronaldson again on target with the conversion Naas led by 14 points.
It was a breathless start and the high pace of the game continued leading to Old Wesley getting back on level terms by the 18th minute. On ten minutes a fine move from the visitors backs led to Thomas O’Callaghan scoring in the corner. Then after a scrum on half-way, Old Wesley moved the ball left out to O’Callaghan who beat his opponent before passing inside to Alex Molloy who raced clear to score. Ian Cassidy converted both and when he kicked a penalty after 32 minutes the visitors led for the first time at 17-14. The Wesley out-half was extremely accurate from the kicking tee, and he was again on the mark after 38 minutes with his easiest kick of the day from straight in front of the posts to make it 20-14.
The lead was well deserved as the visitors had taken a grip on the game in the second quarter and their dominance was rewarded again after 40 minutes when their backs cut loose, with Molloy and O’Callaghan again combining for a fine score which this time went to the latter. Cassidy added the extras but there was still time for Naas to respond before referee Sam Holt blew the half-time whistle. Some great footwork by Fionn Higgins left a couple of Wesley defenders for dead and when he stopped Eoin Walshe was on hand to crash over from close range. Craig Ronaldson added the conversion leaving the score as the players took a well-earned break 27-21 in favour of the visitors.
The pace of the play relented slightly in the second half, with Cassidy again kicking penalties after 44 and 48 minutes to increase the lead for this side to 33-21. But Naas continued to look dangerous with ball in hand and Fionn Higgins again showed his tremendous attacking abilities to slice through the Wesley defence for a brilliant score after 56 minutes. The conversion by Ronaldson reduced the visitors lead to 33-28.
Any nerves that Wesley were feeling were eased by two fine penalty kicks by Cassidy after 70 and 72 minutes to stretch the lead out to 39-28, but Naas were to have the final say when following good work by their pack, David Benn showed great strength to crash over from close range. The successful conversion by Craig Ronaldson brought the scoring for the day to an end with Wesley winning on a 39-35 scoreline.
Soon afterwards word came through from Athlone that Buccaneers had lost to Armagh which secured a play-off place for Wesley much to the jubilation of their supporters. For the home team it meant a finishing position of seventh in the table. This was always going to be a transitional season for Naas and it is one that they can look back on with satisfaction. A lot of new players were blooded during the campaign, and with an extremely young side there is a lot to look forward to for next season and beyond. To all the players and coaching staff a big thank you for all the entertainment you provided during the season.
Naas: Mark McDermott, Jack Sheridan, Charlie Sheridan, Henry Smith, Andrew Osborne, Craig Ronaldson, Derry Lenehan, Adam Coyle, Tadgh Dooley, Stephen Lackey, Paul Monahan (capt), David Benn, Muiris Cleary, Cillian Dempsey, Eoin Walshe. Replacements: Jack Barry, Jack Walters, Nato Kiripati, Jack Rogers, Oscar Cawley, Fionn Higgins.
Old Wesley: Alex Molley, Nathan Randles, James O’Donovan, Eoin Deegan, Thomas O’Callaghan, Ian Cassidy, Gary Bradley, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Glesson, David Motyer, Iain McGann, Will Fay, Dom McClean, Sam Pim. Replacements: Finn Tierney, Sam Kenny, Josh O’Hare, David Poff, Josh Miller, Keith Kavanagh.
Referee: Sam Holt.