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Naas 16 – Banbridge 20 2018-10-20 11:28:00

When Naas ran out to face Banbridge on Saturday they knew they were facing their toughest test to date this season, as to keep their unbeaten record intact they would have to defeat a side packed with no less than eight Ulster Academy players. What transpired was a top class encounter between two fine sides with the result in the balance right up to the final whistle. Great credit must go to all the players on show as the skill levels displayed were extremely high and it will be quite a while before a contest on this standard is witnessed again.

Banbridge should have taken the lead after four minutes. Naas were penalised for wheeling a scrum but full-back Adam Doherty missed a relatively easy penalty attempt. In the early exchanges the power of their pack was causing problems for Naas and they prospered for this on nine minutes. They set up a strong driving maul which Naas collapsed and the resulting penalty was kicked into the corner. From the line-out another driving maul was set-up which Naas again collapsed, and once more the penalty was kicked into the corner. From this line-out a third successive driving maul saw hooker Peter Cromie break free and dive over for the opening try of the match, although Doherty missed the conversion attempt.

However Naas were not to be over powered by this very strong Banbridge pack. They rolled up their sleeves and really got stuck into the opponents, with the likes of Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Ryan Casey and Will O’Brien particulary to the fore. Gradually they gain more and more possession and on 23 minutes they were rewarded with a successful penalty from Peter Osborne for a high tackle. After 37 minutes another Banbridge high tackle led to a yellow card for Caleb Montgomery and within three minutes Naas made this numerical advantage tell when a bone crunching tackle by Will O’Brien led to Banbridge hands in the subsequent ruck. Osborne made the most of the penalty chance and Naas led 6-5 at the break.

The home side got off to a dream start on the resumption. Peter Osborne launched a high kick into the Banbridge 22, Adam Doherty hesitated in dealing with it and Andy Ellis needing no second invitation jumped up to grab the ball and score under the posts. The conversion by Osborne gave Naas a 13-5 lead. Now it was the turn of Banbridge to respond and to their credit they did. They dominated the next 15 minutes but superb Naas defense meant they could not bridge the deficit. However they kept plugging away and they got their reward on 58 minutes. Again they went through the phases and this time Naas just ran out of numbers leaving a big overlap out on the right, which led to Peter Cromie scoring in the corner. This time Doherty was successful with the conversion and within three minutes the same player gave the visitors the lead with a penalty after Naas were again penalised for wheeling a scrum.

The away supporters were now getting extremely vocal but the home side quietened them on 70 minutes. Naas stormed back on the attack and an off the ball incident led to a penalty which was kicked into the Banbridge 22. From the line-out Naas moved the ball out to the backs but a pass from Fionn Carr was deliberately knocked-on which led to a penalty in front of the posts. Peter Osborne made no mistake with the kick and Naas were 16-15 in front as the game entered the closing stages. But for sixty seconds after that Naas switched off and at this level you cannot afford to do that or you will be punished. They never dealt with the kick-off which put them immediately on the back foot and a couple of missed tackles led to Banbridge camping on the Naas line. After a series of pick and drives Caleb Montgomery was able to get over for a score which ultimately was to be the winning score. Naas threw everything in one last attempt to snatch victory but it was not to be and defeat was to be their lot.

Although their unbeaten run came to an end there is a lot of positives for Naas to take from this game. It will be a long time before they face a team of the calibre of Banbridge again and they proved here that they are more than capable of competing at this level. In addition the other results in the league meant that Naas kept their two points lead at the top of the table. Next up for Naas is a home fixture against Ballynahinch on Saturday week, November 3rd with a 2.30pm kick-off and all support will be greatly appreciated.

Naas: Fionn Higgins, Fionn Carr, Ross Bailey Kearney, Johne Murphy, Andrew Ellis, Peter Osborne, Richard Fahy, Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua. Replacements:Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Rudhan McDonnell, Rob Campbell, Cillian Dempsey.

Banbridge: Adam Doherty, Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Adam Ervine, Jonathan Little, Niall Armstrong, Schalk Van Der Merwe, Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Stephen Irvine, Alexander Thompson, Caleb Montgomery, David McCann, Greg Jones. Replacements: Corrie Barrett, Ross Haughey, Christopher Allen, Aaron Kennedy, Benjamin Carson.


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