Old Wesley 4ths Beat Naas in Arm Wrestle. By Dave Taylor
Naas under lights was the venue last Friday evening (4th March) for Wesley’s penultimate league game that ultimately proved somewhat a curate’s egg. With a place in the league final already assured, a Wesley win would guarantee an invaluable home draw for the league final. Complacency fears lingered however, as previous encounters away from home on a Friday night had proved difficult for this team, also Naas were unbeaten in the league at home for over three years.
Old Wesley started well with real direction, focus and impetus as we ran the ball ebulliently and put Naas under pressure, dominating both territory and possession. The first excursion into the Naas 22 resulted in a Wesley lineout on the 5 metre line. A great maul was set up off the tail that had real momentum but we were unluckily penalised for a “truck and trailer” offside. Wesley continued to suck diesel in the Naas half but after 25 minutes there still wasn’t a child washed with the score standing nil all.
The pick and gos around the fringes and strong support at the breakdown were getting good purchase by the tight five, but the team found it frustratingly difficult to get past four or five phases before coughing up errors. Glynner backed himself at outhalf and made a great break, pirouetting through defenders on a great line and over the white wash for a fine individual try. Handcock added the points to make it 7-0 to Wesley.
Naas held possession for the remainder of the first half and made Wesley work hard in defence. The pressure eventually told as Wesley leaked a penalty which Naas knocked over right on the stroke of the half time whistle. Half Time 7-3
The second half kicked off and things soon went tapioca. Again, beyond a fourth phase, Wesley couldn’t run a tap as we constantly coughed the ball up before going wide where Flower looked dangerous (he played well too). But the Kildare team played the tramlines well and pinned us in our half by capitalising on our cat lineout which was uncharacteristically misfiring all day long, eventually allowing them to narrow the gap with a penalty kick. They continued to hold possession and went for the jugular by running their big men off short balls, keeping it tight on the margins. With 15 minutes remaining, the Naas maul slowly worked its way past the 22, the Wesley pack reversing like a horse backing out of a mucky gap. The Naas front five were huge, each with beef to the heels like a Tipperary heifer, and continued to pile on more pressure. But pressure is for tyres, as Sam Moore selflessly put his body on the line, tackled the next ruck and got his hands on the ball to save a try and the penalty was awarded against Naas for not releasing.
Wesley struggled to get out of their half in the final minutes though, and the onslaught continued. There was great governance in defence and everyone put in a huge shift, working flat out like a badger on a bypass. Wesley knew if discipline was maintained in defence, and we didn’t act the gowl, we could hold out until the final whistle. Then the mercurial ref awarded a penalty for an offside 20 metres out and just right of the posts in a real kill or cure moment. Wesley waited with bated breath as the ball was lined up. Had he converted, we would be playing Naas again in the final, and in all probability back in Naas. The kicker lined the ball up, gave it holly and put it wide. Versatile utility player Al O’Connor, covering a multitude of positions on the pitch, was now acting umpire and added confusion to the situation, moving the flag up, whilst the second umpire protested. The ref, consulted both “impartial” umpires and eventually decided that the ball went wide and blew the final whistle.
Final score 6 : 7. An awful dose for Naas but good news for Wesley.