All Ireland League – Naas 35 Old Wesley 39
It wasn’t easy but Old Wesley finished their AIL campaign with a hard fought win over Naas. But that was only half the story. To reach the play-offs Wesley also needed Buccaneers to lose, and when City of Armagh did Old Wesley a big favour by beating Buccs, Wesley moved up to claim the last promotion spot. As a result Old Wesley play Shannon, away, in the promotion play-off semi final next Saturday 22nd April.
It took just two minutes for Naas to show that they weren’t here just to make up the numbers. A neatly placed 50/22 kick earned them a line out close to the Wesley line and from the ensuing line out they mauled over the line to claim the first try of the match. A few minutes later it got worse for Old Wesley when, after a loose pass was kicked through by a Naas player, they scored their second try. Both tries were converted giving the Kildare side a 14-nil lead. Wesley eventually got going led by a big carry by Dom Maclean. The ball was recycled and Will Fay took off on one of his characteristic powerful runs to bring play into the opposition 22. Then a pass to Tommy O’Callaghan for a try in the corner. Ian Cassidy, who went on to have a faultless place-kicking performance on the day, converted from out wide.
Naas earned another line out in the bottom corner after Wesley were penalised. However, on this occasion the throw was crooked allowing Wesley to escape. Just before the twenty-minute mark Wesley were on the attack again. From a scrum just inside the Naas half the ball was swung wide to O’Callaghan who made good ground before passing to Alex Molloy who crossed for Wesley’s second try. With Cassidy’s conversion it was back to square one at 14 all. Cassidy then kicked two penalty goals to give Wesley a 6-point lead. Wesley now looked like they were starting to take over, dominating in territory and possession. Just short of half time another Maclean break had the opposition on the back foot again. He passed to Howard Noonan who took play into the Naas 22, before passing to O’Callaghan for his second try. Cassidy’s conversion gave Wesley a 13-point lead. But Naas were not going away. Just on half time they capitalised on a Wesley defence error to score a try, converted to make it 27-21 to Old Wesley at half time.
Now playing with the slope and breeze advantage, Old Wesley looked like they would go on to claim a comfortable victory. A perfectly placed kick by Gary Bradley gave Wesley a 50/22 line out in the bottom corner. The line out was won but a knock on allowed Naas to escape. Cassidy extended the Wesley lead with two relatively straightforward penalty goals. But Naas certainly weren’t giving up. They scored their fourth try under the posts off a midfield run which left the Wesley defence grasping at straws, making it a 5-point game; certainly far from over.
With the clock now int the final quarter Cassidy struck again with a perfectly kicked penalty from 40 metres out. A few minutes later Wesley were again awarded a penalty 45 metres out 15 metres in from touch. Anxious to keep the scoreboard ticking over Cassidy again stepped up with a perfectly struck kick. The two touch-judges kept their flags down, but after a discussion between the three match officials the referee awarded the points giving Wesley a more comfortable 11-point lead. With the clock now approaching the 40 minutes the Wesley spectators started to breath a sigh of relief as the opposition, who needed to score twice, were running out of time. Naas finished in style with a converted try but with time up it was a win for Old Wesley, promotion to fourth place in the league, and most importantly, a promotion play-off spot.
Old Wesley scorers:- Tommy O’Callaghan, 2 tries; Alex Molloy, try; Ian Cassidy, 3 cons, 6 pens.
Old Wesley team:- Alex Molloy, Nathan Randles, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, Tom O’Callaghan, Ian Cassidy, Gary Bradley, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Gleeson, David Motyer, Iain McGann (c), Will Fay, Dom Maclean, Sam Pim. Replacements: – Finn Tierney, Sam Kenny, Josh O’Hare, David Poff, Josh Miller, Keith Kavanagh.