Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Rugby – U/15 Friendly

Cormac Paige clears his lines against Naas

Naas   7

Portlaoise     31

ON a perfect morning for rugby, Portlaoise U/15s took on the challenge of Naas with a side comprised of a range of new combinations and new positions. Not that anyone could tell as, straight from the kick-off, Portlaoise started brightly with great energy, enthusiasm, and commitment on show.

The first score came after strong carries from Kirwan, Foley and Serrano, with out-half Daniel Whelan on hand to use his speed to cross the whitewash for the first try of the day. Whelan dusted himself down to add the conversion and Portlaoise were off to a flyer.

Naas responded quickly however and were level on 10 minutes. Despite some brave defending from Cormac Paige, Declan Iguma and Ethan Kelly, Naas scored an excellent team try, followed by a superb conversion from their scrum-half.

From here on in though, it was only Portlaoise that kept the scoreboard working. The pack provided a strong platform, with superb rucking and scrummaging on show from the front-row of O’Dwyer, Alley and Lyons and strong tackling from Darragh Maher and Stephen Conroy. Bill Rigney was excellent throughout, ably supported by fellow backrowers Cormac Drea and Shane Foley, who both demonstrated a real carrying threat.

After some strong carries by Foley, Drea, and outside centre Cormac Paige, Whelan kicked Portlaoise into the Naas 22. As Naas sought to launch a counter-attack, Paige executed a textbook tackle that Nicolas Serrano capitalised on with a strong turnover to force a penalty. Quick thinking by Serrano saw him spot an opportunity for a quick tap and go, which he executed to perfection to score under the posts. The conversion by Whelan followed to leave Portlaoise 14-7 at half-time.

As the game wore on, the Portlaoise attack became more and more cohesive and, after some big carries from No. 8 Shane Foley, Cormac Drea and Fionn Cuddy, Portlaoise were once again in the Naas 22. Naas executed a brilliant counter-ruck but as they sought to spread the ball wide, brilliant pressure from scrum-half Dara Coffey forced a loose pass and Cullen Kirwan was hand to kick through and out-sprint the Naas defence for a superb try. Matt Cunningham, who had replaced Whelan at out-half, added the extras with a trademark conversion to make it 21-7.

Kirwan was instrumental to the next Portlaoise score with a strong carry up the right wing, which earned Portlaoise a penalty in the Naas 22. Darragh Maher won the lineout with a brilliant catch and following excellent passes by Coffey and Serrano, Fionn Cuddy was on hand to score to make it 26-7.

Portlaoise were not finished yet and their last score was a brilliant team effort that really summed up the performance. A mixture of excellent inter-play and strong carries from Serrano, Foley, Lyons, Cuddy, Mark Ging and Paul Byrne, created the opportunity for Cunningham to use his speed and evasiveness to dot down in the corner to make the final score 31-7 to Portlaoise.

This performance was testament to the depth and strength of the entire Portlaoise squad, both in the pack and across the backline. This will no doubt be needed for the rest of the season and the challenges that lie ahead in both league and cup.

PORTLAOISE PANEL: Ethan Kelly, Cullen Kirwan, Cormac Paige, Nicolas Serrano, Declan Iguma, Daniel Whelan(c), Dara Coffey, Charlie O’Dwyer, David Alley, Ricky Lyons, Darragh Maher, Stephen Conroy, Bill Rigney, Cormac Drea, Shane Foley. Replacements: Fionn Cuddy, Kyle Moore, Matt Cunningham, Joey McGuinness, Mark Ging, Zach Maginness, Eanna Moynihan, Conor Deegan, Donnchadh Carroll, Paul Byrne, Aaron Fitzpatrick.

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