Portlaoise 24 Naas 16
North Midlands U-18 Rugby Final
Portlaoise were crowned U-18 North Midlands champions following a hard-fought eight point win over Naas in Athy on Saturday.
Unfortunately the conditions with regard to wind and rain weren’t conducive to open rugby but this game was still very entertaining between two very skillful teams.
Naas played with the benefit of the wind in the first half and ten minutes into the game they were awarded a penalty on the Portlaoise ten metre line, following an infringement at the ruck.
Ireland U-18 international Jamie Osbourne slotted a terrific kick to put Naas on the scoreboard.
It took three minutes for Portlaoise to respond thanks to a penalty from their captain William Reilly, after Naas failed to release at a ruck.
And the game’s first try arrived when Portlaoise hooker Ryan McEvoy threw into an attacking lineout and joined the driving maul. Naas offered stiff resistance but eventually buckled under the pressure to allow the impressive Fionn McWey cross the line to secure a try – which was converted by Reilly.
Naas’s Osbourne kicked another penalty following a similar infringement at the ruck by a Portlaoise player, to leave the score at 10-6.
Following some resolute defence from Portlaoise particularly their outstanding backrow player Adrian Brzozowski, the ball was turned over and after a well-placed box kick by Reilly, Naas had to clear their lines which resulted in an attacking lineout for Portlaoise inside the Naas 22.
The Laois lads executed the lineout successfully and Paddy Coss, who is doing the basic requirements of his tighthead role to the highest standards and is proving a force at the breakdown and in the loose, finished some fabulous Portlaoise forward play when he somehow forced his long arm free to dot down on the line. Reilly converted to leave the score at 18-6, which is how the first half finished.
At the start of the second half the centre partnership of Brian Dunne and Brandon Dunne came to the fore. Brandon did exceptionally well to fight past several Naas players and was available when Brian turned inside with the offload, only to be stopped inside the Naas try-line where Portlaoise were awarded a scrum when Naas were adjudged to have spilled the ball in their attempt to rip the ball free from the tackle.
From the resulting scrum William Reilly picked from the base of the scrum and scored a brilliant individual try which left the Naas defenders in his wake. He followed up with the conversion, to leave the score at 24-6.
But Portlaoise were then dealt a blow when centre Brandon Nolan was shown a second yellow which resulted in a red card for pushing a player – a decision which stunned many in the crowd.
To lose a player of the calibre of Nolan would have been a body blow to lesser teams, but the Portlaoise lads to their credit worked tirelessly for the last 28 minutes with 14 men.
It was bound to happen that a team with Naas’s ability would find openings against 14 men and in the last eight minutes they scored two trys.
However, Portlaoise had enough done and would hold on to claim the trophy.
To single out any player would do an injustice to this team performance, the pack led by Adam Duffin with Alan Maher, Alex Boateng, Liam Og Lynch and Taghg Mullen supporting were immense.
Allan Connolly controlled the game masterfully from Out half well supported by Conor Hancock, Jay Buggy, Jordan Radcliffe and Leigh Doyle.
Next up for these lads is Enniscorthy away next Saturday in the Leinster Premier League.
PORTLAOISE: Liam Og Lynch, John Keogh, Paddy Coss, Alan Maher, John Startin, Adam Duffin, Alex Boateng, Robert Laffan, Conor Hancock, Daniel Whelan, Bryan Redmond, Fionn McWey, Eoin Bartley, Robbie O’Rourke, Jordan Ratcliffe, Adrian Brzozowski, Ethan Hussey, Allan Connolly, Tadhg Mullen, Brandon Nolan, Njegos Kukic, Nebojsa Kukic, Brian Dunne, Leigh Doyle, Treleach Cahill, Jay Buggy, Ben Conroy and William Reilly