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Armagh 13 – Naas 7   05/10/2019

Naas got their 2019/2020 All Ireland League campaign underway last Saturday with a trip North to Armagh. This summer has seen major changes in the Naas camp – of the 22 players who figured in the narrow play-off defeat by Old Wesley last April only 11 were available for selection for this contest. Obviously it is going to take time for this new side to blend together, which was one of the youngest in llving memory, but they will feel that they left victory behind them in Armagh.

The game was played in driving rain which made handing extremely difficult and resulted in a low scoring affair. The first 20 minutes was non eventful although Armagh did squander a great chance after seven minutes when knocking on with a try looking a certainty. It took 24 minutes for the first score to come and it fell to Naas. Some great interplay by Bryan Croke, James Hawkey and Ruadhan McDonnell took place right up to the Armagh line before the referee Shane Kierans awarded the Ulstermen a scrum. At the set piece the home side were penalised for wheeling and Naas elected to run it. The ball was moved out the backline but a loose ball went to ground. However Fionn Higgins reacted quickly, hacking the ball forward and winning the sprint to touch it down for a try, just getting there before it went over the dead ball line. Peter Osborne added the conversion and Naas led by 7-0 which was to be the interval score.

Naas started the second half impressively. Straight from the kick-off Bryan Croke sliced through the Armagh defence and took play up to their 22. Naas went through the phases before the referee awarded them a penalty for the Armagh backs straying offside. It was a difficult kick for Peter Osborne and despite striking it well it drifted to the left of the posts.

A big turning point in the game came on 45 minutes. The Armagh out-half Cormac Fox launched a high ball on half-way which was superbly fielded by their winger Andrew Willis. He sprinted for the line and it took a great tackle by Peter Osborne to stop him scoring a try. The referee somewhat harshly penalised the latter for not rolling away and Armagh kicked the subsequent penalty into touch. From the line-out they set up a driving maul that Naas could not contain and Andrew Smyth was awarded a try which Cormac Fox converted to level the scores.
The visitors were very close to regaining the lead on 59 minutes. The Armagh backs ran the ball just inside the Naas half but Bryan Croke intercepted and he raced clear. However with the try line beckoning he swerved to avoid the despairing tackle of his pursurer, but in doing so he slipped himself and the ball was knocked forward and the chance was gone.

The home side struck the front on 66 minutes. The Naas backs spilled the ball in their own 22 and in their desperation to remedy matters that were adjudged to have handled in the ruck, giving Fox the chance with the penalty which he made no mistake with. Peter Osborne was wide with a long range effort on 70 minutes, but with the home side now on top they increased their lead with the very last kick of the game. Naas were penalised for collasping a scrum and Fox slotted over the penalty to leave the final score 13-7 in favour of Armagh.
After the match Naas coach Dan van Zyl said: “Armagh are a side that play good rugby and if your’re going to give them ball they’re going to hurt you. Their kicking game and first phase possession was better than ours. Its a rebuilding phase for us and it is going to take a couple of games”.
So an opening day defeat for Naas but they do not have long to wait for a chance at redemption as next Saturday they have a home fixture against Old Wesley. Games between these two sides have produced some classics in recent times and there is no reason why next weekend should be any different. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all are welcome.

Armagh: Tim McNeice, Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin, Johnny Pollock, Shay O’Brien, Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle, Paul Mullen, Jonny Morton, Philip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Ollie Miller, James Hanna, Nigel Simpson, Robert Whitten (captain). Replacements: Andrew Smyth, Eoin O’Hagan, Barry Finn, J.J. Scheepers, Stuart Lester.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Craig Adams, Ben Swindlehurst, James Hawkey, Eoin Walsh, Bryan Croke, Peter Osborne (captain), Jack Barry, Graham Reynolds, Conor McCormack, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Ryan Casey, Ruadhan McDonnell, Mike Russell. Replacements: Conor Doyle, Peter King, Andrew Sweeney, Matt Stapleton, Mark Sutton.
Referee: Shane Kierans.

Other Naas RFC Results this weekend:
J1: Naas 26 Clontarf 19.
J2 Lalor Cup: Naas 47 Clane 0.
Under-18s: Naas 24. North Kildare 0.
Under-16s: Naas 45. Wexford 7. Naas 17. Malahide 12.
Under-15s: Naas 40. North Kildare 7.
Under-13s: Naas 29. Newbridge 12.
Naas Womens 1st XV 51. Westmanstown 0.


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