By Seamus Dunne
NAAS won the U16 Youth Premier League final in Mullingar against Tullow on Saturday afternoon, a strong second-half from the Kildare side proving decisive.
Naas came roaring out of the blocks and built a substantial lead before Tullow responded excellently, and at half time the game was very much in the melting pot, Naas leading 17-14.
In the second period on the all-weather pitch at Mullingar Rugby Club, Naas pulled away, lead by the exciting twin duo of Charlie and Jack Sheridan, to deny Tullow who had come back into the game so well in the first period.
Naas had the early ball and territory in Mullingar, and they got a try with just a few minutes on the clock.
They moved the ball excellently from one wing to the other, with James Forde putting Paul O’Dwyer through in the corner to cross the try line.
It got worse for Tullow when Naas’s Charlie Sheridan chipped a ball in behind, the bounce of the ball fortuitously ended up in a Naas players hands and Charlie Sheridan broke through the Tullow defence to get their second try and put the scoreboard at 10-0.
Naas put 15 points between the sides with 15 minutes played with Jack Sheridan setting up his brother Charlie to get their third try of the contest, leaving Tullow with a mountain to climb.
Charlie converted his try to make it 17-0 to the Kildare side, but this game was far from over, as Tullow began the fightback.
A good patient move from Tullow got them metres from the Naas try-line, and Mark McDermott put the head down and got the ball over the line for Tullow’s first try.
Adam Johnson converted to make it 17-7 and another great Johnson kick, from a penalty minutes later, gave Tullow great field position deep in Naas territory.
Tullow continued to put the pressure on Naas and they were rewarded with their second try, Adam Daye driving over the try-line to leave just three between the teams at half-time, 17-14, and Tullow very much on the up after a tough start.
Naas started the second period strong and halted the Tullow momentum on 41 minutes, pressure eventually paying off, with James O’Loughlin crossing over for a try.
Tullow were getting into good positions, with Adam Johnson excellent, but failing to capitalise, with their line-outs letting them down.
The final looked to be heading in Naas’s direction on 50 minutes, James Forde found himself in space on the wing, he assisted Jack Sheridan, who ran clear for the try.
Time was running out for Tullow and they couldn’t take advantage of some good late field position, with indiscipline proving costly.
Naas ran out convincing winners with their second-half dominance proving key, a fantastic first-half comeback didn’t carry over for Tullow who battled gallantly without reward in the second half.
Tullow: Cormac Nolan, Jack-Fitzgerald Rogers, Tom Byrne, Mark McDermott, Conor Walsh, Conor Kelly, Ben Lawless, Adam Deay, James Flood, James Whelan, Cameron Ferreira, Adam Johnson, Ben Butler, Eoin Sheridan, Devon Byrne. Subs: James Walshe for T Byrne (18 mins), Eoin Brophy for C Walsh (half-time), Patrick Doyle for J Flood (40 mins), Oisin O’Friel for D Byrne (45 mins), Clark Burgess for M McDermott (57 mins), Garry Tooher, Tadgh Foley