All Ireland League – Old Wesley 19 Naas 16
Old Wesley just about beat Naas in a hard fought match under lights at Donnybrook. But for the second week in a row Wesley had to rely on the accurate boot of Barry McLaughlin to clinch victory.
Played in cool but otherwise perfect conditions on the all weather pitch Wesley were out of the blocks first and had the opposition under pressure in their own 22. However they then concede a penalty allowing Naas to restore normality. Then 12 minutes into the game the home side was awarded a penalty virtually in front of the posts which McLaughlin had no difficulty in converting for the first points on the board. The visitors looked to respond immediately but an intercept by Ger Finucane who passed to Paul Harte had play back in the Naas 22 once again. Wesley looked to be in line for a try with a line out 15 metres from the goal line. But the Wesley line out was malfunctioning and Naas stole possession and counterattacked, eventually resulting in a penalty which they kicked to level the score.
Wesley eventually found their purple patch and dominated the second quarter. With 25 minutes on the clock Isaac Leota broke through the defence, and sprinted 25 metres for the first try of the match. McLaughlin converted and followed up with two further penalty goals to give Old Wesley a 16-3 lead. However the visitors pulled one back leaving the score 16-6 to Old Wesley at half time.
Whatever Naas coach (and former Old Wesley coach) Van Zyl said to his charges at half time certainly worked, because if Old Wesley owned the second quarter, Naas owned the third quarter. With their supporters in full voice the Kildare men had Wesley pinned in their 22 and were starting to look very dangerous. Eventually an Adam Griggs clearance was blocked down and influential Naas second row David Benn pounced for a try. The conversion was missed but this spurred on the visitors. Once again they had Wesley under pressure in their 22 where Benn crossed for his, and Naas’s, second try, this time after a series of forward drives for the line. Once again the conversion was missed leaving the score at 16 all.
It was worrying times for the home side however Captain Darren Horan did not allow his players to panic. With both sides starting to tire Wesley started to regain the edge. A cross kick by Tim Clifford to Harte looked like a try in the corner. However visiting Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli did not agree and after consulting with the assistant referee adjudged a knock on and a relieving scrum for Naas. Wesley continued to pound away at the line. The Naas defence stood firm but eventually conceded a penalty 10 metres wide of the posts. Although a straightforward kick it was of high pressure, but cool as a cucumber McLaughlin split the posts to take a three point lead. Crucially from the restart Naas kicked the ball over the dead ball line for a scrum back and any chance of a comeback looked unlikely. Wesley held out and the game ended 19-16 in their favour.
There is now an 8 week gap until the next AIL match, a return fixture against Naas. But in between Old Wesley will face Greystones in the second round of the revived Leinster Senior Cup.
Old Wesley team: Rory Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, Isaac Leota, Ger Finucane, Paul Harte, Tim Clifford, Adam Griggs, Davy Henshaw, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Michael Dunleavy, Josh Hinde, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley. Subs: Craig Telford, Martin Gately, Mark Robinson, Donnchadh Phelan, Alan Large.
Old Wesley scorers: Isaac Leota, Try; Barry McLaughlin, Con, 4 Pens