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Naas 14 - Ballynahinch 16   16/04/2017

Naas 14 - Ballynahinch 16

If ever there was a game of two halves this was it. For the opening 40 minutes Naas were the superior force. They dominated possession and terriorty and it was a surprise to everyone present that they only led by eight points at the break. The second half was the complete opposite with Ballynahinch in control, which eventually led to them claiming victory in dramatic circumstances.

Despite the counter attraction of Leinster playing in the Champions Cup a large crowd turned up in Naas for this vital Division 1B tie, and they saw the home side get off to a blistering start. Following a powerful carry by Paulie Tolofua, Ben Swindlehurst was stopped just short of the line. The ball was quickly recycled and passed out to Peter Howard who scored in the corner. The conversion was right out on the touchline but it made little difference to Peter Osborne who slotted it over to give Naas a seven point lead. 

Restarts have been a problem for Naas all season and it was a similar story here. Their failure to deal with this one led to the concession of a penalty, which Justin Rea scored. This game saw a succession of baffling decisions by referee Kieran Barry that certainly did not endear him to the home supporters and one of these came on 25 minutes. He penalised Ben Swindlehurst for not rolling away at a ruck, when everyone in attendance could see the big effort he was making to do so. The successful kick by Peter Nelson reduced the margin to one.

However Naas looked the better side and their superiority was rewarded just before half-time. After winning a penalty they declined a shot at goal and instead opted to kick into the corner. After winning the line-out they formed a driving maul which led to them driving over the line and Paul Monhan scoring. With Peter Osborne adding the conversion Naas led 14-6 at the interval.

A Peter Nelson penalty 90 seconds into the second half made it 14-9 and from there on we saw why Naas have the meanest defence in the league. Ballynahinch needed a victory to make them safe from relegation, and for the next 35 minutes they threw everything at Naas in their bid for victory. However the home side stood firm and with Nelson missing two long range penalities it looked as if they had survived a big scare when eventually getting out of the own half with just a couple of minutes remaining.

Ironically the winning score for Ballynahinch came from a Naas attack. Some good handling by the backs took play up to the visitors line, but a knock on turned over possession and Ballynahinch attacked. Naas were caught for numbers out wide and before they knew it David McGuigan was away and gone. To the utter disbelief of the home supporters he had just enough to make the line and to level the scores. The conversion by Nelson gave Ballynahinch a 16-14 lead with just seconds remaining.

Naas did get one last chance to snatch victory when they were awarded a penalty for hands in a ruck. However from almost half-way Peter Osborne was narrowly wide with his effort and straight away the final whistle came.

Defeat leaves Naas in fourth place in the league with two games to be played. However they are five points clear of the fifth team U.C.C. so a play-off place is still very much on the cards. Next up for Naas is another home fixture against Ballymena next Saturday. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Carr, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Peter Howard, Ben Swindlehurst, Max Whittingham, Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Eoin Walsh, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements: Warren Larkin, Conor Doyle, Andrew Kearney, Michael Skelton, Ben O'Connor.

Ballynahinch: Paddy Wright, David Busby, Davy Nicholson, Justin Rea, Aaron Ferris, Peter Nelson, Aaron Cairns, Jonny Blair, Andrew Harper, Ben Pentland, James Simpson, John Donnan, Stewart Evans, David McGuigan, Mike Graham. Replacements: Andrew Weir, Matthew Nelson, Brian Howard, James McBriar, Callum McLaughlin.



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