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Naas 27 – Malone 38   02/11/2019

On an afternoon that weather conditions meant that the majority of games in the Energia All-Ireland League around the country were low scoring affairs, Naas and Malone bucked the trend by amassing no less than 65 points between them in their match at Forenaughts last Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for Naas more than 50% of them went to Malone, consigning the home side to a fourth consecutive defeat, but at least they had the consolation of a try scoring bonus point.

Despite the poor weather a decent crowd turned up for this clash betweent two sides who reached the Division 1B play-offs last season, and it was Naas who made a blistering start. Within three minutes they won a scrum penalty on half-way and this was dispatched to touch. From the subsequent line-out Conor Doyle peeled away from the side of the ruck, and when he was stopped just short of the line, Johnny Holmes was on hand to pick up the ball and dive over. Despite the conversion being missed Naas led by 5-0.

However this lead lasted just seven minutes. Considering the conditions there was some great handling by the Malone backs, and they sliced through the Naas defence taking play into the 22. The forwards then took over and following a series of pick and drives, Peter Cooper crashed over to score. The conversion was missed and the sides were level at 5-5.

A Peter Osborne penalty on 14 minutes restored the lead for the home side, but they fell behind soon afterwards. Ben McCaughey made a great break through the Naas midfield but he threw a long pass out to the wing that did not go to hand. However lock forward Matty Dalton decided not to pick up the loose ball but choose to fly kick it ahead, and then showed tremendous pace to win the race to touchdown for the try. This time Calum Smith made no mistake with the conversion and the Ulstermen led by 12-8. On 27 minutes they extended this lead. A late tackle by Bryan Croke led to him receiving a yellow card and gave Smith another shot at goal, with which he made no mistake with and gave Malone a 15-8 lead.

This game was seeing both sides enjoying spells of dominance and for the next ten minutes it was the turn of Naas to be on top and they were rewarded by levelling the scores on 33 minutes. Malone had possession deep in their own 22 but great rucking by the Naas forwards saw them turn over the ball. This was moved out wide quickly and suddenly they had a three man overlap. It was a chance they could not afford to spurn and they didn’t, with Craig Adams racing over to score with Peter Osborne adding the conversion.

However the away side snatched the lead just before the interval. They were awarded a penalty 30 yards out from the Naas line for a ruck infringement and quick thinking by the Malone scrum-half Lewis Finlay saw him tap the penalty to himself, catching the Naas defence unawares. He was hauled down just short of the try line but Peter Cooper was on hand to pick up and dive over. With the conversion being missed Malone led 20-15 as referee Richard Horgan blew the half-time whistle.

The floodlights were on for the start of the second half as conditions worsened, but the free scoring nature of the game continued, and within ten minutes Malone had added another two tries. Firstly Lewis Finlay was on hand to finish off a move that saw the Ulstermen create a big overlap on the right side, and then Ben McCaughey intercepted a ball and he passed to Angus Kernohan who was not to be caught. With Jack Milligan converting one of these tries the lead was now 32-15 in favour of the Ulstermen.

Naas looked as if they were going to suffer a big beating but to their credit they stormed back into the contest. On 61 minutes they won a penalty for a high tackle and kicked this into the corner. From the resulting line-out they received another penalty as Malone collapsed the driving maul that the home side had set up. With a penalty advantage Naas had a free play and spun the ball out to to the backs and some good handling eventually created space for Peter Osborne to sprint in under the posts, and he also converted this try. Then on 72 minutes Mark Sutton just could not ground the ball when over the line, but Naas were awarded a five yard scrum. Despite the heavy rain falling they elected to run the ball from the scrum and their courage was rewarded as Fionn Higgins was able to score in the corner. This gained Naas a try scoring bonus point, and despite the conversion being missed they were also in a position to gain a losing bonus point as well as they now only trailed by 32-27.

However this point was snatched away from them in the closing moments of the game. First they conceded a penalty for a tackle that the referee deemed to be dangerous which was slotted by Jack Milligan, and deep into injury time the same player was successful with another penalty after Naas collapsed a driving maul to leave the final score 38-27 to Malone.

Although this turned out to be another defeat for Naas the signs are that they are not far away from rectifying matters. It was always going to take time for all the new players to gel together but it is coming together and one victory could lead to many more. Next up for Naas is a trip to Banbridge next Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Niall Delahunt, Fionn Higgins, Craig Adams, James Hawkey, Matt Stapleton, Bryan Croke, Peter Osborne, Conor Doyle, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Johnny Holmes, Ruadhan McDonnell, Ryan Casey.Replacements: Jack Barry, Conor McCormack, Philip Jordan, Tom Brady, Mark Sutton.

Malone: Angus Kernohan, Johnny Milliken, Nathan Browne, Calum Smith, Ben McCaughey, Jack Milligan, Lewis Finlay, Andy Warwick, Clayton Milligan, Peter Cooper, Ryan Clarke, Matty Dalton, Joe Dunleavy, Matty Agnew, Azur Allison.Replacements: Dan Kerr, Ricky Greenwood, Conor McMenamin, Dave Cave, Conor Spence.

Other Naas RFC Results this weekend:

J1: Naas 32 Lansdowne 19

J2: Naas 50. Blackrock 15.

Under-20s: Naas 46. Ashbourne 7.

Naas Women 0. Gorey Women 38.

Girls Under-18s: Naas 24. New Ross 12.

Girls U-14: Naas 10. Newbridge 10. (Naas win on first try rule)


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