Naas RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B.
3rd December 2021
Making one’s way to Naas RFC on a busy Friday evening, is not easy, finding a way past a resolute and skilful Naas team at any time, is not easy and tonight even more difficult than usual; for this is a really strong ensemble.
We have had some special days like our visit to Shannon, I am afraid this was not a good day and, as we have celebrated with grace our good ones, we must accept defeat with equal equanimity. Our lads were not wanting in determination nor effort, indeed every one of our players did his utmost, but alas, there were too many errors, dropped balls and missed tackles. Even our set pieces, which have been steady this season wobbled on occasions. There is a tendency too, to take unaffordable time to settle over the early part of a games. Our coaches will no doubt analyse and remedy these problems.
For many years now, it has become clear that Friday night games of importance, for amateur rugby players, are not advisable. Most players are either working or studying during the day, and have many things on their minds on Fridays. Likewise they have to rush home for gear and try to get, through heavy traffic, to make it to the particular venue. There is not time to build concentration or intent and often players are ruffled. We have had mixed results on Fridays and most will recall when last in 1A, having to rush across a jammed Dublin to meet Clontarf. Within ten minutes, Clontarf had put two tries on our bemused team, before we could gather composure; we would likely have won the game were it not for that dreadful start. This was not the entire reason tonight, but it is clear we should be most reluctant to accede to requests for Friday night AIL games. Games of less import might not be so acutely affected. It did not help either, that several senior players were out injured and interpretation of the offside rule was moot.
It was sad to note a scant turn out of supporters, however the core of committed ones did their best to paint their presence in loud colours. The night was cold and wet, with a lazy, piercing wind. It is fortunate that we remain in 3rd place, seven points behind Wesley and ten behind Highfield, the leaders. And now as we face our next game on Saturday, before the long break for Christmas, it is imperative that we do so with renewed avidity and belief. Malone, fight for survival in 8th place and were only just beaten by Shannon in their last game. It will be tough.
After this loss, none of our very talented young players are anything but disconsolate and there can be no personal criticism that things did not go well. We did show on several occasions during the game that not only could we equal but surpass them. Sometimes, one could see the herculean efforts made by players. To see Mick O’Gara or David Fanagan, tremble with effort to shake off defenders or stay a surge, made that clear. Big men like Mighty Mick McCormack and Liam Corcoran strained every mental and physical fibre for their team. The pain afterwards was shared by every Marys man. Our Skipper tonight, Ronan Watters, is the embodiment of an exceptional Marys man and nobody on the field tried harder or contributed more, or indeed led better than he tonight. He scored a try with supreme effort and went, foot to the floor, from whistle One to whistle, Last. He was deservedly awarded SoftCo MoM.
If we were to ask for a worse opening it could not have been so presented. The game was only two minutes old when an intercept gave Naas a perfect start, 7-0 and dented Marys’ confidence and calm. The bewildered looks said it all. On 12 minutes Naas converted a penalty, 10-0. Only a minute later we assaulted their line and Liam Corcoran used his big frame to force his way over and bring the score, when Mick O’Gara converted, to 10-7. It was 23 minutes when Naas scored again, 17-7 and on 31 minutes, a penalty for Naas, gave them a lead at half time of 20-7.
The second half was only three minutes old when Naas caused more pain as they brought the score to 23-7, with a penalty and then with a mauled try on 60 minutes, to 30-7. On 68 minutes, Mick McCormack scored after several picks and drives and gave us hope. Mick O’Gara converted, 30-14. Marys got into some rhythm and there were several good runs. One fine break by Ruairi Shields and Myles Carey was just broken up; and then again Ronan led the charge. We got into position and from close in Ronan, just with sheer will and leg power, drove and twisted and turned to get the ball down, and it was 30-19, with five minutes left. We were going hard to try to at least get a losing bonus point. When running out of defence we spilled the ball forward and a Naas man gathered it in the air and ran around the defence, scoring in the corner. Their kicker Osbourne, had his first miss and so it ended 35-19.
We will recover and will deliver a top performance next Saturday, but to ensure that that top performance gets us the win, you must do your part; come along and cheer your team on. They have asked to hear continual bursts of Mary-Marys-Marys reverberating around the terraces. There is a lovely Christmas atmosphere right now, add to the cheer. But please bring your mask, obey Covid rules and be careful for your sake, and for your rugby colleagues and friends sakes too.
There will then be a month’s break before we take on Malone again in Belfast, followed by Naas coming to us and so on in reverse order to the first half of the league. A lot of rugby and joy to come. We should then have at least most of our players back, who are hors de combat.
Team (12 changes)
15 R Shields, 14 M Timmons, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 R O’Loughlin, 10 C Dean, 9 D Fanagan, 8 R Watters(Capt.), 7 N Hurley, 6 N McCarthy, 5 L Corcoran, 4 I Wickham, 3 M McCormack, 2 S O’Brien 1 D Lyons. J Coolican, T O’Reilly, L Curran, A O’Neill, D Leane. J Nolan.