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Old Wesley 20 – Naas 17 (after extra-time) 2019-04-28 17:30:00

DIVISION 1A PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINAL

Naas just failed in their attempt to join the elite of Irish Rugby in Division 1A after falling to an extra-time defeat by Old Wesley in Donnybrook on Sunday in the play-off semi-final. Both meetings between these sides earlier this season had been extremely close and another tight encounter was expected here. It certainly lived up to expectations, as played out in front of a massive crowd it took 100 exhilarating minutes of rugby to decide the outcome. Rugby has received some negative press in recent times but everyone who witnessed this classic could only be in awe of the commitment and talent of all the players on show.

The home side struck first after 14 minutes. They were awarded a kickable penalty but declined the opportunity and went for touch. From the line-out in a well worked move Thomas O’Callaghan came in from the wing to take the ball, he quickly passed to Charlie O’Regan and he scored untouched beside the posts. The Naas defence has been brilliant all season but they will be disappointed with their effort here. Rory Stynes tapped over the conversion for a seven point lead for Wesley.

Naas however responded almost immediately. They won a penalty straight from the restart and Peter Hastie kicked it into the corner. Naas won their line-out and from this Hastie put in a great cross field to Andy Ellis. The big centre knocked it back to Peter Osborne and the seasons leading scorer finished off the move in the corner. Not only that but Osborne also kicked a magnificent conversion from right out on the sideline and the sides were level at 7-7.

But it was not long before the home side were back in front. They pounded the Naas line with wave and wave of attacks. The Naas defence was superb here putting their bodies on the line to hold Wesley out. However after five minutes of non-stop pressure Ben Burns finally found a way over and with Stynes adding the conversion Naas now trailed by 14-7, which was to be the interval score.

Both sides had chances in the opening twenty minutes of the second half to score. Stynes missed a penalty for Wesley after 54 minutes and almost straight after this Andy Ellis nearly got in at the corner to score for Naas.

But Naas did reduce the margin on 65 minutes when following a big scrum they were awarded a penalty which Osborne successfully converted, however within four minutes David Poff sliced open the Naas defence and when he was hauled down near the posts Naas were penalised for hands in the ruck. Josh Miller tapped over the penalty and the gap was back to seven at 17-10.

Naas needed something special to rescue the game and it came after 74 minutes. Some good handling by the backs created space for Fionn Carr out on the right hand side of the pitch. He had Fionn Higgins outside him but elected to go himself and was stopped and it looked like the chance had gone. However he managed to offload to the supporting Peter Osborne and the latter skipped clear to score his second try of the match. There was extreme pressure on Osborne with the conversion but he held his nerve and kicked it over and the sides were now level at 17-17.

The tension in the ground was now unbearable and this was raised another notch when Wesley were awarded a penalty in the very last minute. It was by no means easy as it was about 50 yards out and Josh Miller struck it well. However to the relief of the Naas supporters it dropped just short and referee Chris Busby then blew for full-time.

So after giving it everthing both sides now faced extra-time and it was Wesley who struck first in the additional period. After just three minutes Naas were penalised for wheeling a scrum and Miller made no mistake with his kick to put the home side 20-17 in front. That turned out to be the match winning score. To their credit Wesley maintained possession well for the remainder of the game, and hard as Naas tried they were forced to live on scraps and could just not get enough quality ball to rescue the game.

So defeat was to be the lot for Naas on this occasion and the end of their dreams of promotion. But every player and member of the management team should be extremely proud of their efforts all season. They were magnificent and are a credit to themselves, the club and the town. Roll on next season.

Naas: Peter Osborne, Fionn Higgins, Johne Murphy, Eoin Walsh, Andrew Ellis, Peter Hastie, Richard Fahy, Conor Doyle, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, James Connolly. Replacements: Cathal Duff, Jack Barry, Peter King, Niall Delahunt, Cillian Dempsey, Rudhan McDonnell, Fionn Carr.

Old Wesley: Rory Stynes, Thomas O’Callaghan, Alan Gaughan, David Poff, Paul Harte, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Conor Maguire, Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, J.J. O’Dea, Iain McGann, Conor Barry, Josh Pim, Paul Derham. Replacements: Craig Telford, Ciaran McHugh, Mark Rowley, Darren Horan, Josh Miller, Alan Jeffares, Lachlan Anderson.




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