Athy 10- 19 Navan
Navan U18 Mens Squad v Athy 18th November 2017
Back Row (L to R)
Peter Clarke (Coach) Keelan Murphy, Calum Dalgarno, Ciaran O Reilly, Paddy McLoughlin, Philip Cullivan, Dan O Connell, Paddy Kiernan, Shane Heffernan, Padraig Nangle, Jack McGee, David Delahunt (Coach), Conor Dalgarno, (Manager)
Front Row (L to R)
Eoin Duggan, Ru Searle, Colm Flynn, Sean Walsh, Jack Dixon, Mathew Reilly, Rory Gordon.
There were limited grounds for optimism for the bare minimum 15 players and their parents who made the long trip south to Athy on Saturday last. However the team, which has a struggled for success in recent weeks, responded with a superb gritty performance and ultimately outclassed their hosts. After a cautious start by both sides, Navan’s back row won a turnover just inside their own half and a superb pass from Ru Searle to Matthew Reilly cutting in of his wing made a decisive line break and then broke through three more tackles before finally being brought down in the Athy 22. First on the scene was Philip Cullivan who picked and drove to within about 3m of the line winning a penalty in the process. This was tapped quickly by back row Dan O’Connell who came within inches of scoring before some composed rucking by the Navan pack put Shane Heffernan over under the posts for seven nil lead.
Athy struggled to get a foothold in the game and consistent disruption by the Navan back row both at set piece and in the loose forced many handling errors by the home team. Navan’s front row of Paddy McLoughlin, Calum Dalgarno and Paddy Kiernan had the edge at scrum time and kept Navan on the front foot throughout.
Midway through the half another solid Navan scrum on the visitors 10m line, allowed scrum half Jack Dixon to put Ru Searle into space. His sublime flat pass to Rory Gordon cut the home defence in two and he managed to evade the home full back to round under the posts for a second try for the visitors. Further Navan pressure resulted in a poor kick from the home in-goal area and full back Sean Walsh’s counter attack was only snuffed out by last ditch defence by Athy.
Shortly before half-time Navan were penalised on their own 10m line for not releasing. The standout player on the home side, their outside half, kicked a superb penalty to reduce the deficit to 14-3 at half time.
The home team enjoyed their best spell of the match following the restart and although Navan held out for multiple phases of home pressure they eventually ran out of cover and Athy scored in the corner in spite of a valiant last ditch tackle attempt from Ciaran O Reilly. The home out-half kicked an outstanding touchline conversion and Navan found the lead cut to only 4 points. At this point the home team emptied their bench, and with no substitutes of their own, the visitors were going to have to work very hard to hang on.
Athy’s replacement prop carried the ball superbly in the loose and caused the visitors problems with strong runs that gained yards. However relentless tackling from the forwards including second rows Pauraic Nangle and Philip Cullivan and the outstanding back row of Dan O Connell, Ciaran O Reilly and Shane Heffernan led to several relieving turnovers. At the breakdown Navan started to reassert themselves and midway through the second half quick ruck ball and even quicker hands from the Navan half backs put Rory Gordon away once again, splitting the Athy defence wide open.
The visitors could count themselves a little unlucky not to have scored more tries as Navan’s 9-10-12 combination continued to cause serious problems for the home team.
With about 10 minutes ago several Navan players were showing signs of fatigue and a number picked up knocks, including Dan O Connell; during a superb tackle when Athy threatened to break out down the blind side, and Ru Searle; who was hit late following one of his excellent kicks from hand. Both Shane Heffernan and Ciaran O Reilly received treatment on account of their aggressive offensive tackling and work rate at the breakdowns.
However the home could not breach the Navan defence again and the 15 travelling lads held on for a superb 19-10 victory with most of the visiting players out on their feet by the final whistle.
It was a compelling match played in good spirit by both teams facilitated by an excellent performance by the referee. The old adage that decisions are made by those who show up was proven by these 15 Navan lads who donned their jerseys on Saturday a long way from home and came back with a sweet victory. For the management team of Peter Clarke, David Delahunt and Conor Dalgarno, it was a great result with the limited resources available on the day.