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Ballymena 24 – Naas 47   06/04/2019

Naas took a giant step towards clinching a promotion play-off spot while also keeping their chances of automatic promotion alive with an emphatic victory away to Ballymena last Saturday afternoon. Given the tightness of this league a win here was imperative for Naas, and against their already relegated opponents they put up a seven try performance to ease clear.

They could not have wished for a better start with a try after only 12 seconds. Ballymena failed to deal with the kick-off from Peter Osborne and Andy Ellis latched on to the loose ball to sprint clear to score beside the posts. Osborne tapped over the conversion and Naas were seven points up before some of the spectators have even arrived.

Although Ballymena had nothing to play for having already been relegated there were not about to roll over for Naas, and by the tenth minute they were in front. After three minutes Naas were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck and Tim Small was on the mark with his penalty attempt, and then on nine minutes they scored a try following a quick tap penalty by Michael Stronge which led to Connor Smyth scoring in the corner. A superb conversion by Small gave the home side a 10-7 lead.

Naas then upped it a gear and were to score three unanswered tries. On 18 minutes they robbed possession from Ballymena in a ruck on half-way, Peter Hastie kicked a great cross field kick that was gathered by Fionn Higgins, the latter rounded his opposite number and Hastie was on hand to take his pass to score under the posts. Hastie was also involved in the next Naas try on 25 minutes. He intercepted the ball 40 yards out from the Ballymena line and he passed to Richard Fahy who took play up to the 22. When Fahy was evenutally stopped the ball was quickly moved out the Naas backline and with a hugh overlap Eoin Walsh strolled over untouched. Some great handling led to the next Naas try on 37 minutes. Andy Ellis left two would be tacklers for dead, he passed to Richard Fahy and the ball went through another two pairs of hands before Peter Osborne dived over to secure the try bonus point for Naas. With Osborne converting two of those tries Naas led by 26-10.

To their credit Ballymena did respond with a fine score of their own just on half-time, when following a superb break by Michael Stronge, Glenn Baille was on hand to score in the corner. A magnificent conversion by Tim Small left the score at the break 26-17 in favour of Naas at the break.

This lead was extended seven minutes into the second half. Richard Fahy started the move outside the Ballymena 22 and a great offload found David Benn who carried it forward. The latter then passed to Peter Hastie who ran clear to score, with Osborne adding the conversion. Ballymena kept plugging away and were rewarded when their pack set up a driving maul on 57 minutes which led to a try being awarded to Ian Caldwell, which was converted by Small, but any small hopes of a fightback were extinguished on 64 minutes. Ballymeana attempted to run a ball deep in their own half but knocked on, and Naas ruthlessly punished the mistake by setting up an attack which led to Cathal Duff scoring. Another conversion by Osborne meant Naas led by 40-24. The visitors still had time to add another try – the one scored by Fionn Higgins - with the successful conversion meaning that Naas started the long trip home with a very satisfactory 47-24 win secured.

This victory means that Naas remain in third place in the league, and know that a win in their final game of the campaign will certainly secure a promotion play-off spot. That game is at home against Buccaneers next Saturday afternoon with a 2.30pm kick-off and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Ballymena: Rodger McBurney, Sam Millar, Matthew Morris, Tim Small, Glenn Baille, Bruce Houston, Michael Stronge, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Christopher Cundell, Ian Caldwell, Connor Smyth, Matthew Dick, Marcus Rea, Clive Ross.Replacements: Houston Bonnar, James Taggert, Connor White, Ryan Mattison, Eoin Ritson.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Higgins, Niall Delahunt, Eoin Walsh, Andrew Ellis, Peter Hastie, Richard Fahy, Stephen Lackey, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements:Cathal Duff, Peter King, Ruadhan McDonnell, Niall Delahunt, Cillian Dempsey.





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