Naas one Boyne!
CAPTAIN Niall Kerbey's drop goal with the last kick of the match secured a dramatic victory for Boyne over league leaders Naas before a large crowd at Shamrock Lodge on Saturday.
There have been many exciting encounters at the Drogheda venue over the years, but it could be argued that none of them came anywhere near the scenes that were witnessed during and at the end of this pulsating encounter as Boyne recorded their first ever win over the Kildare side.
Boyne opened well and went on the offensive straight from the kickoff, despite playing into a slight breeze and the blinding setting sun.
Naas began to settle, but the home side had obviously worked out their tactics in advance by stopping the Naas attacks at source. Their big runners were meeting strong resistance and making little progress against an outstanding Boyne back row of Declan Moore, Nico Vorster and Ciaran Smith. The Boyne backs were also holding the line well and frustrated the frequent Naas attacks.
Then, following seven minutes of play, Kerbey opened the scoring for his team with a 35-metre penalty that sailed between the posts. This lead prevailed for 20 minutes, during which time Naas full back Aherne had two attempts wide of the posts before opening his side's account with a close-in penalty.
Boyne's kicking tactics were forcing Naas to attack from deep in their own half, but nevertheless Aherne kicked another penalty coming up to the half-hour mark to give his side a 6-3 lead.
A sequence of incidents saw the home side reduced to 13 players following a double sin-binning. The first of these came when Boyne's outstanding winger Brian Howell, in a try-saving tackle, was adjudged to have gone in high and the referee flashed a yellow card.
Naas went for the lineout and put Boyne under serious pressure, with Boyne desperately defending their line, and Paddy Muldowney was then sent to the bin for deliberately knocking the ball from the hands of the Naas scrum at a ruck.
Down to 13 men Boyne were in serious trouble. The following 13 minutes saw them, quite simply, perform heroics that were vital in holding Naas scoreless for this period. Naas failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Boyne got to half-time without conceding another score to leave matters at 63 to the visitors.
The intensity increased in the second half and Boyne held out until their sin-binned players returned to the action. Naas continued to target the midfield, with their big men trying to make the gain line, but the Boyne defence was magnificent.
It was from a superb turnover by Boyne that led to their try when the outstanding Kiwi Chris Pusi made a brilliant tackle just inside the Naas half in midfield on their centre, causing him to spill the ball.
Back row Vorster pounced on the ball and sprinted into space to send his outside backs away, with Bryan Croke crossing for the try. Kerbey added a marvellous conversion to take his team into a 10-6 lead.
Boyne's forwards were giving them magnificent possession from a very sound set scrum and they seemed to have contained the visitors' scoring threats - until the 64th minute when Naas broke down the right. For once the Boyne defence faltered and seemed to be distracted when a forward pass wasn't called by the referee, and there was an air of surrealism when wing forward David Benn ran in for a simple try. Aherne missed the conversion from a difficult angle to the right of the posts, leaving Naas with a slender 11-10 lead.
Boyne continued to bring the game to their opponents and were rewarded when Kerbey restored their advantage with the boot.
However, in the 72nd minute Aherne delivered what appeared to be a very decisive score for his team by converting a penalty.
Boyne simply refused to succumb, though, and Kerbey produced the sweetest punt he has ever kicked to gain victory for his team. First of all, he tried a longrange penalty which fell agonisingly short. Then, with his forwards working feverishly for good possession, they delivered excellent ball and Gavin Kennedy gave Kerbey superb ball in the pocket for two attempts at a field goal that failed.
The ref signalled last play from a Boyne lineout, and it was do-or-die for the home side. They went through a number of phases and Kennedy again set up his kicker for what was the last kick of the game. The ball sailed between the uprights and the ecstatic scenes of emotion and joy from the Boyne supporters was unbelievable.
This was one of the most memorable victories in the club's history and a credit to the team and their coach Craig McGrath. They put their bodies on the line and were immense in their defiance of the visitors' onslaught.
There were a number of candidates for man of the match, but prop John Kinsella gets the nod following his best ever game for the club.
The team have a rest next weekend before resuming league action the following Saturday against Thomond in Limerick.