An away fixture is never easy for a cup semi-final and a cup semifinal against Naas is doubly difficult. But the Seapoint U-20s hung tough when it counted, demonstrated huge belief in themselves under pressure and were worthy winners at the final whistle.
Unsurprisingly for a semi-final the game started rather cagily as both teams tried to find their rhythm. Naas playing simple direct rugby whilst Seapoint appeared more comfortable in the wider channels. Some good breaks and handling by Seapoint provided good scoring opportunities but having gained a foothold in the Naas 22, they twice allowed Naas off the hook by conceding penalties. As a result it was Naas that gained the first scoring opportunity from a penalty and Seapoint were lucky not to go behind when the Naas out-half missed from just outside the 22.
Spurred on by this narrow escape, Sean Cronin made an incisive line break shortly afterwards and delivered a perfect pass to Alex ‘The Postman’ Lee to score a well taken try for the first score of the game. James Brindley missed a difficult conversion to leave the score at 5 – 0 after 15 minutes. Sean Cronin had injured his ankle during that break and had to be replaced by Oscar Lawlor who came in at winger with Sam Cassidy replacing Sean Cronin at centre. Shortly afterwards Jack Reynold who had being growing into the game made a barging run up the middle before offloading to his second-row partner Jack Campbell. When Campbell went to ground Reynolds picked up immediately from the ruck, went straight through the middle and scored under the posts. Brindley knocked over the trivial conversion to leave the score at 12 -0 after 20 minutes.
Travelling supporters might have been guilty at this stage of being confident of a comfortable victory. But it’s never that straightforward. After Seapoint cleared their lines from a penalty, a Seapoint overthrow in the ensuing lineout fell kindly to the Naas Number 8. A strong line-break and an offload later and Seapoint were under the posts having conceded a try in the 25th minute. The concern amongst management and travelling supporters was whether the seven-point advantage would be enough up the hill in the second half.
Seapoint responded immediately to the challenge. Exerting significant pressure from the kickoff they forced their way into the Naas 22. Brindley declined easy penalty kicks twice to kick into the corner and ultimately was rewarded. After sustained pressure from the forwards Conor McCaul forced his way over for Seapoint’s second try. This left the half time score at 17 points to 5.
Daniel Drohan came on at scrumhalf at half time in place of Ross Gallagher (bruised shoulder) and Luke Hammond was replaced by Conor Eivers. Naas started the second half brightly and despite sterling defence by Jack Reynolds and Jack Campbell, Naas got an early converted try only 5 minutes in to leave the score at 17 points to 12.
For the next 15 minutes the game hung finely in the balance. Played between the two 22’s, both sides gave it their all. Seapoint looking to have better creativity and more skill in their backline, but very often being overly ambitious and overcomplicating plays when simpler passing and putting several phases together might have yielded better results. That said, after some exquisite handling and some great running lines, Brindley eventually broke through to score under the posts, ensuring his subsequent successful conversion. This left the score at 24 points to 12 at the 60-minute water-break.
At the 60 minute mark, Jack Hand, Luke Hammond, Stephen Manning and Louis Whelan came on for Jack Reynolds, Conor McCaul, Oscar Lawlor and Logan Brady. From the ensuing kick off Naas again gained possession and exerted a lot of sustained pressure before finally scoring a converted try on the 70-minute mark. At this point Seapoint were ahead by a mere 5 points (24 to 19) with the home support baying loudly for a home victory, Liam Forster came on with Seamus Flannery moving to the front row in place of Luke Hammond.
The last ten minutes could only be described as trench warfare. Naas to their credit threw everything including the kitchen sink at Seapoint. Led by Liam Forster and with a never say die attitude the visitors stood firm. A key moment was when Liam Forster turned and held up the Naas No 8 as he dived over the line for a certain try. On another occasion Conor Eivers and Conor McCaul combined to drive an attacking player 10 yards straight back out of the 22 before ripping the ball and regaining possession. To a man the Seapoint players stood firm, rode their luck, believed in one another and refused to buckle. Their just reward is a final against local rivals DLSP next Sunday September 26th.
Several strong contenders for man of the match. Gareth Hughes and Sam Cassidy were both excellent at centre, Jack Campbell combined power with street smarts throughout. Seamus Flannery and Eoin Mahon were as reliable as ever and Sean Finn was busy and involved throughout the 80 minutes. After some debate the coaching team agreed on Jack Reynolds as the deserving man of the match for an all round display of physicality and great handling combined with good decision making – well done Jack.
Next week the final is on Sunday against DLSP – venue and kick off time to be announced.
Team against Naas
1 Luke Hammond 2 Eoin Mahon 3 Conor McCaul 4 Jack Campbell 5 Jack Reynolds 6 Seamus Flannery 7 Sean Finn 8 Hugh Ross 9 Ross Gallagher 10 James Brindley (Capt.) 11 Sam Cassidy 12 Gareth Hughes 13 Sean Cronin 14 Logan Brady 15 Alex Lee
16 Conor Eivers 17 Liam Forster 18 Jack Hand 19 Oscar Lawlor 20 Louis Whelan 21 Stephen Manning 22 Daniel Drohan