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Shannon 25 - Naas 3   16/01/2018

Naas travelled to Thomond Park last Saturday knowing a massive test was facing them. Their opponents Shannon have proved themselves to be by far the best side in the league, and with no injury problems they were going to be formidable opponents. They certainly did not disappoint, running out comfortable winners, although the final score was certainly flattering to them.

With a large vocal home support in attendance Naas needed a decent start, but this did not materialise as Shannon struck within four minutes. Naas won a line-out on the half-way line, and proceeded to run the ball. However the Shannon backs were up very quickly and this led to Steven Fitzgerald intercepting and running unopposed under the posts. The conversion was a formality for Conor Fitzgerald and Shannon led 7-0.

They had a stroke of luck after 11 minutes. The referee Kieran Barry somehow missed a blatant Shannon knock-on, and he then penalised Naas for hands in the resultant ruck. Conor Fitzgerald made no mistake with the penalty and stretched the lead to ten.

Within sixty seconds Naas has reduced this. From the kick-off Shannon played the ball in an offside position, and the ever accurate Peter Osborne calmly slotted a difficult penalty to make it 10-3 to the home side.

If Shannon had the luck earlier in the match, Naas had their share on 21 minutes. A Shannon penalty was kicked into touch, and from the line-out they set up a powerful driving maul. They drove Naas right back over the line but the referee could not see the grounding, and could not award the try.

Shannon dominated the rest of the half but had to settle for another Fitzgerald penalty on 26 minutes, and Naas nearly shocked them on the stroke of half-time. Great breaks by Fionn Carr and Fionn Higgins took Naas the length of the pitch but the final pass just failed to go to hand with a try looking a certainty.

Although Naas went in at the interval ten points down there was reason for optimism. Shannon had played that half with a gale force wind behind them, and the lead they held certainly did not look insurmountable.

But Shannon are a class side boosted by Munster Academy players, and in the second-half they showed this. Despite playing into the wind they dominated the early exchanges of the half and increased their lead on 49 minutes. From a line-out they again got their powerful driving maul working, and this time they were not to be denied as they crashed over for a try, which was awarded to Duncan Casey. Although the conversion was missed by Fitzgerald, Shannon now led by 18-3.

Any lingering hopes of a Naas comeback were extinguished on 58 minutes. The visitors were enjoying a decent period of possession and were making the Shannon defence work overtime, when Fionn Carr was high tackled, giving Naas a penalty. Johne Murphy tapped and went himself but the referee deemed that he led with his elbow into the face of the tackler, and awarded a penalty to Shannon and gave Murphy a yellow card.

To their credit Naas kept trying and went close to scoring on a couple of occasions, before Aaron Hehir scored a breakway try that was converted by Fitzgerald right on the full-time whistle.

So it was to be defeat for Naas but plenty of positives can be taken from the performance. They certainly will not meet any side of the calibre of Shannon from now until the end of the season, and on this display they are more than capable of accumulating many victories in the rest of this campaign.

Next up for Naas is a home meeting with Old Belvedere on Friday, January 26th. This kicks off at 7.30pm, while in the meantime the Naas 2nds XV host the holders Tullow in the first round of the Provincial Towns Cup. This is on Sunday, January 21st with a 2.30pm kick-off and support at both games will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Rob O'Connor, Donal Droney, Johne Murphy, Fionn Carr, Michael Skelton, Peter Osborne, Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Conor Doyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Warren Larkin, Will O'Brien, Cillian Dempsey. 

Replacements: Charlie Kings, Ross Barrett, Paulie Tolofua, Max Whittingham, Ross Bailey Kearney.

Shannon: Fionn McGibney, Nathan Randels, Jack O'Donnell, Will Leonard, Steven Fitzgerald, Conor Fitzgerald, Keith Kavanagh, Tony Cusack, Ty Chan, Ciaran Parker, Ronan Coffey, Sean McCarthy, Lee Nicholas, Kelvin Brown, John Foley. 

Replacements: Duncan Casey, T.J. Relihan, Elliott Fitzgerald, Aaron Hehir, Kieran Dunne.



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