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Old Belvedere 12 – Naas 19   07/12/2019

Naas travelled to Ollie Campbell Park to face Old Belvedere last Saturday with the game kicking off at a later time of 5pm to allow supporters to watch the Leinster v Northampton game first. However this created some additional pressure for Naas as by kick-off time they knew that the three teams immediately above them in the league table had won and therefore a victory of their own was vital. They responded to the challenge by turning in a superb performance that saw them running out well deserved and fully merited winners.

Naas got off to an explosive start and opened with a score after four minutes that must be a contender for any try of the season award. It started with Ryan Casey making a break deep in his own half and was finished some 140 seconds later when James Hawkey dived in under the posts. In between there was some marvellous interaction between forwards and backs, with great handling, offloading and powerful carries all of which opened the Belvedere defence apart. With Peter Osborne adding the conversion Naas were seven points to the good.

They doubled this advantage after 17 minutes. From a line-out take by David Benn, the ball was passed to out-half Bryan Croke who chipped over the Belvedere defence. He was able to gather his own kick, and his quick pass to the supporting Peter Osborne saw the latter sprint clear to score under the posts. With the conversion successfully added Naas led by 14.

This was a lead that the visitors totally deserved as they were on top in all aspects of play, but with their very first attack the home side were able to reduce the margin after 27 minutes. James McKeown found a rare gap in the Naas defence and when he was stopped the ball was moved quickly wide to the right to Jack Keating. The Belvedere winger was met with a fine tackle by Matt Stepleton which bundled him into touch and the danger appeared to have been averted. However after winning the subsequent line-out, Naas coughed up possession and following a series of pick and drives by the Belvedere pack, their lock Connor Owenide was able to force his way over for a try which Tommy Whittle converted.

This was to be the last score of the half, leaving Naas 14-7 in front when referee John Carvill blew the whistle for the break. Certainly a few minutes respite was welcomed by the players as this contest was played at a tremendous pace and the second half was to be no different.

The home side took over completely for the first 15 minutes after the restart and only some brilliant defence by Naas restricted them to just one score. The tackles put in by the likes of Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, Graham Reynolds and Eoin Walsh had to be seen to be believed, as time after time wave after wave of attackers were knocked right back. However Belvedere did manage to get one score after 50 minutes. Ariel Robles made ground up the left side of the pitch taking play up to the 22, the attack was carried on the pack and from close range Owenide was on hand to score his second try of the match. However the conversion was missed which meant that Naas still led by 14-12 with half an hour to go.

Gradually the tide turned and Naas grew more and more into the game and on 59 minutes they scored another great try. After winning a penalty for a high tackle, Bryan Croke brought play up to the Belvedere ten metre line. From the line-out James Hawkey charged right through the home defence, and when the ball was moved out wide right Ben Swindlehurst was stopped just short of the line. Possession was quickly recycled, Fionn Higgins threw a long, looping pass out left to Conor Doyle and the prop forward was not to be stopped from scoring in the corner. Although the conversion was missed Naas had a 19-12 lead with twenty minutes to go.

They were able to defend this lead rather easily and had only one anxious moment for the rest of the game. This came after 65 minutes when Belvedere were awarded a five yard scrum. They appeared to be in the process of driving Naas back but for some reason their No.9 Aaron Atkinson decided to take the ball out of the scrum and the chance was lost.

Naas then went back on the attack in search of a try bonus point and although they not achieve this, the main objective of victory was gained and deservedly so. The pack was immense throughout with both the line-out and scrum working well, while the backs always looked threatening when in possession. Add that to every squad member defending as if their life depended on it and you had a complete performance. Certainly this victory will give Naas great confidence and they will be a dangerous side for anybody to face in the upcoming months. Next up for them is a home fixture against Navan, this Friday night, December 13th at 8pm. All support will be greatly appreciated.

Old Belvedere: Fergus Flood, Jack Keating, James McKeown, Steve Crosbie, Ariel Robles, Tommy Whittle, Aaron Atkinson, James Bollard, John McKee, Roman Solanoa, Connor Owende, Dean Moore, Jack Kelly, Ethan Baxter, Ger Hill. Replacements: Joe Horan, Ryan McMahon, Peter McCague, Billy Hayes, Justin Leonard.

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, Eoin Walsh, Ryan Casey, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements: Conor McCormack, Jack Barry, Tom Brady, Ben Swindlehurst, Gary Kavanagh.

Other Naas RFC Results this weekend:

Junior 1: Naas 33. Clontarf 5.

Junior 2: Naas 42. Old Wesley 20.

Under-18s: Naas 19. Tullamore 18.

Under-16s: Naas 29. Portarlington 7.

Under-14s: Naas 15. Clane 5.

Under-13s. Naas 39. Longford 5 - Naas 48.Wexford 7.

Naas Women 39. Greystones 17.


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