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All Ireland League action returned for Boyne on Saturday last when they made the short trip to Forenoughts in Kildare where they played Naas. When the playing history between these two is analysed, from their Leinster League days, Naas have never been on the losing end of these previous encounters. Boyne also resumed playing activities without their talisman and most consistent player over the past decade, Eoin Coliins. He has resumed his coaching duties with the squad and was in attendance on Sunday and received the good wishes from both Naas and Boyne supporters for a full and speedy recovery.
Another interesting spectator at the game in Naas was former Boyne player and now one of Munsters established stars, Nial Ronan. He goes into hospital for his operation this week on his knee injury and he also, received good wishes from Boyne supporters.
Given that both these sides had not played since early December, it was to be expected that rustiness would lead to errors in several aspects of the game. What was evident though, was the fitness of the two teams which was testimony to their commitment to respective training routines during the break. The skies did threaten but fortunately the rain stayed away and a good surface provided the protagonists with perfect conditions for good rugby.
Boyne had a few changes in their lineout owing to enforced circumstances. Into the side came Dermot O’Neill at 2nd row for his second start of the season. Paddy Muldowney was handed the No. 8 shirt to replace Eoin Collins and Glenn Malone started at open side wing forward.
These changes worked very well in the circumstances and there were some surprises when Boyne substitutions were made later in the match with former Gaelic player, John Kermath coming on at wing forward and doing well in an unaccustomed position, having played all of his previous rugby in the backs.
Boyne opened very smartly and moved the ball swiftly from ruck and maul. Scrum Half, McGrath, varied play in these opening minutes and put in some deft kicks for his wingers to put pressure on the Naas rearguard. The Naas full back, Ahearn, indicated from early on, that he could capably deal with anything that came his way and he returned Boyne’s punts with interest time after time. Despite Boyne’s early enthusiasm and eagerness to attack at every opportunity, they were rocked back on their heels on the 8th minute. From one of their probing kicks into the Naas 22’ it was gathered by full back Ahearn who made ground before placing a kick upfield. The kick was gathered by winger Eoghan Duffy inside his own half near the touchline. He seemed to slip and attempted a pass to his full back Kerbey. Naas left winger, Fitzgerald, chased the kick and intercepted Duffy’s pass to the full back and sprinted for the line. He touched down out wide for the first try of the match. Ahearn failed with the conversion to leave Naas 5pts in front.
This score came very much against the run of play and Boyne were rewarded for their endeavours on the 15th minute when Kerbey, as he so often does, settled Boyne nerves when he slotted over a penalty when the home side were caught offside in midfield. This left two points between the sides. Naas had a good spell of possession midway through the half and were awarded a penalty just inside the Boyne 10’ line and Ahearn went for goal. The effort fell short and Boyne cleared their lines. Following this period of pressure Boyne took play into the Naas half and a series of drives by their pack took play deep into the Naas danger zone. With the home side’s defence stretched, the wily Boyne half backs, McGrath & Croke, spotted the flat defence and moved the ball to the right. Full back, Kerbey, joined the line, made the break and slipped a well timed pass to Eoghan Duffy for the winger to cross for a Boyne try. So, the duo had redeemed themselves for their earlier error and put their side in front. Kerbey missed with the difficult conversion attempt.
Naas won their own drop out when the Boyne calls seemed to get mixed up and responsibility was abdicated. They set up an attack which brought them into the Boyne 22’. Boyne’s defence was solid and they forced a knock on from Naas and cleared from the ensuing scrum. They brought play downfield and into the Naas half. Again good work by the Boyne forwards with O’Neill and Cooney prominent, saw them drive into their opponents 22’. This effort proved futile when Boyne knocked on and the chance was lost.
From the clearance, the home team drew level when they forced Boyne into an offside infringement 30 mts out and Ahearn enhanced his kicking reputation with another fine effort.
There was some exciting play in the remaining minutes of this half from both sides. The Duffy brothers, Eoghan & Bevan, had a delightful exchange of passes which almost yielded a try and at the other end of the field in a Naas attack, it was Boyne prop, Paddy Cooney, who gave a Man Of The Match performance, saved the day when he made a classic drop on the ball, gathered, and drove back at the opposition under serious pressure.
Before half time Kerbey tagged on another 3pts when he slotted a penalty to give Boyne an 8pts to 11pts advantage at half time.
Naas had a bright opening to the 2nd half and put Boyne under sustained pressure in the first ten minutes. During this spell they drew level from a penalty by Ahearn when Boyne winger, Sherrard, made a try saving tackle. He was penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
This proved to be the last score of the game and both sides will look back at missed chances, particularly Boyne, who created a marvellous chance with almost the last play of the game. They were pressing the Naas defence and had succeeded in drawing in their defence before releasing the ball out wide. The ball reached prop, Kinsella, who had winger Brian Howell outside him unmarked 5mts short of the line. The big prop cut back inside and the chance was lost when he ran into the covering Naas defence.
Boyne won’t be too dissatisfied with their two league points with the draw keeping them moving up the table.
Boyne make another short trip to Kildare for their next league game when they play NUIM Barnhall.
Boyne XV & Rpls: Paddy Cooney, George Cooney, John Kinsella; Dermot O’Neill, Ian O’Reilly; Glen Malone, Ciaran Smith, Paddy Muldowney; Craig McGrath, (Capt), Bryan Croke; Adam Sherrard, Bevan Duffy, Conor Casey, Eoghan Duffy; Niall Kerbey. Rpls – all used – James McKevitt, Richard Shuttleworth, John Kermath, Harry Kennedy & Bryan Howell