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Naas 10 – Old Wesley 16   12/10/2019

Naas entertained Old Wesley in the Energia All-Ireland League last Saturday afternoon and a storming finish by the home side saw them claim a losing bonus point, which could be crucial at the end of the season. Games between theses sides in recent times have produced some classics, and while this latest renewal will not go down as another one, the gain of the losing point against the odds saw the home supporters go home reasonably happy. It is well known that Naas have had a big change in personnel over the summer and this was emphasised by that fact that they fielded just five players from the starting line-up of their previous clash with Wesley last April, whereas the Dublin side were able to select ten players from that game.

Unfortunately the heavens opened just as the contest got underway last Saturday, making conditions very difficult, and it was Wesley who adapted best and they dominated possession and territory in the first half. However it took them fourteen minutes to registered their first score. This came after Naas were penalised for a side entrance at a ruck and from in front of the posts Rory Stynes tapped over the penalty.

The pattern of the game remained unaltered after this with the majority of the play taking place in the Naas half, and after 25 minutes Wesley moved up the gears in their attack and pounded the Naas line with multiple phases. Great credit must go the home defence as they bravely put their bodies on the line to repel these attacks, but finally they conceded a penalty at a ruck and Stynes made no mistake with another easy penalty chance to double the visitors lead.

It looked as if Naas were going to reach half-time with just a deficit of six points which considering the balance of play would have been a result, but in the very last seconds of the half they conceded the opening try of the game. James O’Donovan sliced through the Naas defence, he off loaded to Iain McGann and the big second row shipped the ball onto winger Thomas O’Callaghan who scored in the corner. The conversion was difficult but Stynes was again successful to leave Wesley 13-0 in front at the break.

Thanfully the rain stopped for the second half but Naas were reduced to 14 players on 59 minutes following the sin binning of Ben Swindlehurst. The player in this case can feel that he was harshly dealt with here as referee Dan Carson adjudged that he had been high with his tackle on his Wesley opponent. However there is no doubt that the attacker slipped as he was approaching Swindlehurst and this was not taken into consideration by the referee.

Wesley almost immediately took advantage of their numerical superiority. They kicked the resultant penalty into the corner and from the line-out they drove at the Naas line. After a series for phases the home side were penalised for encroachment and Stynes was again accurate with his place kick to stretch the lead to 16.

At this stage of the game a big winning margin for Wesley looked the most likely outcome, certainly the chances of Naas taking anything out of the contest looked slim. However to their credit the home side raised their performance and with the likes of Ryan Casey and replacements Tom Brady and Eoin Walsh rolling up their sleeves and having a real go at Wesley the pattern of the game changed. Naas suddenly enjoyed some decent possession and they made this count on 70 minutes. The Wesley No.8 Paul Derham was penalised for not using his arms in a tackle and with a free play Bryan Croke put in a high cross field kick. Rory Stynes hesitated as the ball was dropping and Fionn Higgins leapt high and snatched the ball from him to score in the corner. Croke was narrowly wide the conversion to leave the score 16-5.

Then  in injury-time Naas secured the losing bonus point which seemed so unlikely just ten minutes earlier, with a try that was very similar to the first. Again Naas had a free play with a penalty advantage and Croke put in another cross field. This time it was fielded by Ryan Casey who passed it to Eoin Walsh and he dived in at the corner. Although the conversion was missed it did not matter as the referee blew the full-time whistle immediately with Wesley winners by 16-10.

So although it was a second defeat in the league for Naas there were plenty of positives to be taken from the performance. Certainly the way that the players refused to lie down and battled all the way to the finish - gaining a point in the process - was extremely encouraging and will give them plenty of confidence going forward. Next up for Naas is an away trip to league leaders Highfield next Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Craig Adams, Ben Swindlehurst, James Hawkey, Matt Stapleton, Bryan Croke, Gary Kavanagh, Jack Barry, Graham Reynolds, Peter King, Gary Rowan, David Benn, Paul Monahan, Ruadhan McDonnell, Ryan Casey.Replacements: Conor Doyle, Conor McCormack, Tom Brady, Eoin Walsh, Mark Sutton.

Old Wesley: Rory Stynes, Thomas O’Callaghan, David Poff, James O’Donovan, Richie Walsh, Josh Miller, Charlie O’Regan, Harry Noonan, Ben Burns, Cronan Glesson, Iain McGann, J.J. O’Dea, Conor Barry, Stephen Boyle, Paul Derham.Replacements: Craig Telford, James Burton, Luke Thompson, Tim Clifford, Bill Corrigan.

Other Naas RFC Results this weekend:

J1: Naas 14 St. Marys College 50.

J2 Metro Cup: Naas 16. UCD 17.

Under-20s: Naas 62. Wanderers 29.

Under-17s: Naas 19. Portlaoise 14.

Under-13s: Naas 62. Athy 12.


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