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U.C.C. 16 - Naas 13
U.C.C. 16 - Naas 13
Naas continued their push for promotion from Division 1B of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League with an away trip to Cork last Saturday to face U.C.C. This was the fourth time in the last 17 months that these sides faced each other, and although Naas had won the previous three meetings, the fact that seven points was the biggest margin of victory suggested another close contest was in store, and that was to be the case.
The game was played on a beautiful Spring afternoon and Naas started brightly, taking the lead after 12 minutes. Following great breaks by David Benn and Paulie Tolofua they were stopped just short of the U.C.C. line. The home side were awarded a scrum but Naas managed to push them off it, winning a penalty. The kick by Peter Osborne was successful, taking him to 100 points in the league to date.
For the next 15 minutes, Naas were in control. Their pack, particularly in the scrum were on top and they generally looked the better side. However they failed to add to their lead during this spell of dominance, a fact they would rue later.
On 27 minutes they kicked straight into touch and gave U.C.C. a line-out just outside the 22. The home side took full advantage. After securing possession they hammered away at the Naas try line before out-half Tom Kiersey got over. Although Kevin O'Keeffe missed the conversion, he made amends on 36 minutes with a penalty to give U.C.C. a 8-3 lead.
Naas needed to respond quickly and they did just that. Following a break by Ben Swindlehurst, U.C.C. were penalised at the subsequent ruck and Peter Osborne reduced the gap with his penalty attempt.
Within a minute of the second half he had the chance to give Naas the lead. The U.C.C. scrum was under big pressure and they conceded another penalty straight after the restart. However from the half-way line Osborne narrowly missed.
With 19 minutes remaining the home side increased their advantage. Naas attempted to run a ball from their own line, but turned over possession and with a huge overlap U.C.C. quickly moved it out wide to Daire Feeney who scored. Although O'Keeffe missed the conversion Naas now trailed by 13-6. To be honest they looked a beaten side at this stage as not only were they seven points behind, but they had lost Michael Skelton, Will O'Brien and replacement Johnny Delaney to injury.
However there is great heart in the side and they were not going to lose without a fight.
With 13 minutes to go Paulie Tolofua emphasised this. When he received a ball inside the U.C.C. half there seemed little danger for the home side. However he took off, brushed away numerous tackles and made 40 yards for Naas. When he was eventually stopped the ball was quickly moved to Peter Osborne who sprinted down the line to score in the corner. The conversion was extremely difficult but Osborne struck it beautifully to level the scores.
The last say however was to go to U.C.C. With six minutes remaining Naas were penalised for hands in a ruck and Kevin O'Keeffe was successful with his penalty attempt, that gave them the lead and ultimately victory on a 16-13 scoreline.
So defeat was to be Naas' lot but it was not all doom and gloom. Within minutes the scores of the other games in the league filtered through, and it transpired that the losing bonus point gained was enough to move Naas into second in the table. The push for promotion is still on.
Next up for Naas is a home fixture against Ballynahinch on Saturday week, March 4th, with a 2.30pm kick-off.
Naas: Michael Skelton, Rob O'Connor, Fionn Carr, Johne Murphy, Peter Howard, Ben Swindlehurst, Peter Osborne, Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Andrew Kearney, Will O'Brien, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements: Warren Larkin, Jordan Duggan, Cillian Dempsey, David Barron, Johnny Delaney.
U.C.C.: Richie Walsh, Kevin O'Keeffe, Kevin Slater, Paul Kiernan, James Kiernan, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O'Regan, Shane O'Hanlon, Emmet McCarthy, Rob O'Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Daragh Moloney, Conor Barry, Cathal Gallagher, Paul Derham. Replacements: Charlie Slowey, Tadgh McCarthy, Eddie Earle, Murray Linn, Chris McAuliffe.