Naas hosted Rainey Old Boys at Forenaughts on Saturday in their opening Ulster Bank League game of the year. Having ended the year in second position Naas had since dropped to fourth place ahead of this game as their away fixture against Ards the previous weekend was called off due to adverse weather, writes Jim Casey.
Rainy Old Boys: 19
Naas kicked off the first half with a strong wind advantage and wasted no time opening their account following a superb try by wing, Johnny Delaney in the 3rd-minute.
The move originated at a ruck inside the Rainey 22 involving Sam Sutton, Peter Osborne and Henry Bryce who attacked up the left flank and combined with Johnny Delaney who powered over in the left corner. The touchline conversion by David Aherne was excellent considering the conditions.
For the first quarter Naas had dominated territory and possession significantly and continued to do so early in the second quarter. In the 24th-minute, the influential Naas flanker, Andrew Kearney turned over possession and set up a counter attack on the left flank from the Rainey 10m line involving Sam Sutton, Daragh O’Shea and Johnny Delaney who again broke through in the left corner for his second try which was again brilliantly converted by David Aherne to make the score 14-0.
Naas were now building momentum but suffered a minor setback in the 30th-minute when their backrow was sent to the bin for a ruck infringement on the halfway. Rainey kicked to the right touchline from the penalty and used their maul to good effect to drive Naas back deep into their 22 on the right flank.
Following successive ruck phases the Rainey prop Neil O’Kane found space in the Naas defence and powered over on the right flank in the 33rd-minute. The conversion by fullback, Mark O’Connor drifted wide giving a score of 14-5.
Naas continued to apply pressure for the remainder of the half and their scrum in particular was performing well thanks especially to the efforts of their tight five, Jason Harney, Jock Toland, Andrew Shirley, Gary Rowan and David Benn. In the 38th-minute their flanker, Andrew Kearney again turned over possession 35m out to set up a further counter attack involving Sam Sutton, Peter Osborne, Daragh O’Shea, Rob Campbell and finally Johnny Delaney who powered over for a third try in the left corner which gave a halftime score of 19-5 in favour of Naas.
In the second period Rainey used their tactical kicking and excellent ball handling skills to good effect to keep Naas mostly confined to their own half.
In the 55th-minute Rainey broke through to within 5m of the Naas line but dogged defence by Naas, especially their back row of Paul Monaghan, Mistioka Timoteo and Andrew Kearney forced the errors and Naas cleared through Daragh O’Shea.
The Rainey onslaught continued as Naas struggled to secure any significant territory from their tactical kicking, which was not helped by strong head-winds. However the Naas defence remained strong at least until the 70th-minute when Rainey eventually found space on the right flank following a lineout on the Naas 22 and their flanker Michael Shiels touched down. The conversion by Mark O’Connor gave a score of 19-12.
Rainey were encouraged by the single score margin and turned down multiple penalty kicking opportunities in favour of kicks to touch and scrums which would offer a better attacking or try scoring platform.
This eventually paid off when their wing, Alan Clarke, finally breached the Naas line in the 79th-minute and the conversion by Mark O’Connor levelled the game at 19-19.
Whilst Naas may have been disappointed to have surrendered their halftime lead they will be pleased to have taken points off the league leaders and were probably unlucky not to have secured a narrow win.
Naas seniors are next in action on Saturday, 9th February when they travel to Hamilton Park in Newtownards to take on Ards. A win here would potentially move Naas back to second place in the league. Their next home game is scheduled for Saturday 2nd March against Nenagh Ormond.
1. Andrew Shirley 2. Jock Toland (Niall Carson 55’) 3. Jason Harney 4. Gary Rowan 5. David Benn 6. Paul Monaghan 7. Andrew Kearney (Misioka Timoteo 60’) 8. Misioka Timoteo (Steve Kinneavey 55’) 9. Sam Sutton (Capt) 10. Peter Osborne 11. Johnny Delaney 12. Rob Campbell (Rob O’Connor 65’) 13. Daragh O’Shea 14. Henry Bryce (Brian Fitzgerald 60’) 15. David Aherne 16. Niall Carson 17. Vinnie Cuddihy 18. Steve Kinneavey 19. Brian Fitzgerald 20. Rob O’Connor
Rainey Old Boys:
1. S. Rutledge 2. S. Suffern 3. N. O’Kane 4. T. Barker 5. P. McGowan 6. A. Harbinson 7. S. Hawe 8. D. Dawson 9. A. McCluggage 10. G. Martin 11. R. Lamberton 12. S. Simpson 13. D. McMurray 14. A. Clarke 15. M. O’Connor 16. K. Donaghy 17. P. Boyle 18. M. Shiels 19. T. Burns 20. M. McClelland