Navan Senior Men’s 1st XV got their 2023/24 Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A campaign off to a perfect start with a bonus point win away in County Antrim against Ballymena.
The game in Eaton Park watched on by a good crowd which included Ulster, Ireland & Lions legend Willie-John McBride, started off with some nervous exchanges with the home side enjoying the majority of procession in the first five minutes.
Navan did work their way back into the game however the procession went back and forth with both sides coughing up procession at the breakdown.
Eleven minutes in Navan were penalised just inside their own half and Ballymena took the opportunity to go for a kick at the posts, from the attempt the ball hit the upright and was caught by centre and team Captain Sean McEntaggart who kicked the ball up field to clear the ball out of the Navan 22 metre area.
Ballymena kept the pressure on and broke the deadlock in the 26th minute with a successful second penalty kick attempt to take a 3-0 lead.
The home side’s lead only lasted for two minutes as Navan struck back with winger Sean Walsh getting in for the first try of the game, Full-back Rory Gordon added the conversion to give Navan the lead.
Ballymena replied shortly after to close the gap to a single point after Navan gave away another penalty within kick-able range albeit from closer to the halfway line.
The home side then retook the lead three minutes before half-time, getting a break through the Navan defence after a couple of phases retaining the ball leading to the Ballymena captain and blindside flanker getting in under the posts to give the home side advantage on the scoreboard going into the interval.
The second half got underway with Navan looking to reduce errors and look to retain the ball more
Three minutes after the break, wing Ben McEntaggart gathered a wayward Ballymena pass and carried the ball up field to the home side’s 10m line. However an unfortunate knock-on though handed possession back to the home side.
The home side then looked to try and close out the game as a contest by landing a third penalty to extend their lead to 16-7 six minutes into the second half.
The following 14 minutes of play was played out with possession going back & forth mainly in the midfield areas of the pitch.
With the game going into the final quarter, a change in momentum suddenly swung in favour of the Meath club. On 60 minutes Navan No.8 Harry Hester got over the line for Navan’s 2nd try, full-back Rory Gordon added the extras to close Ballymena’s lead to two points.
Navan then took the lead for the second time in the game when Ballymena were penalised for holding just outside their 22m on 64 mins, with Gordon again sending the ball through the posts.
Then with ten minutes to go after a back and forth segment of play, Gordon got over the line himself, breaking away to score under the posts and add the
Navan then stretched the lead getting up the field from the restart leading to Outside-Centre & Captain Sean McEntaggart getting in over for Navan’s fourth try to secure a bonus point
Ballymena did have the final say with the last play of the game to get in for a converted try in the right hand corner giving them a losing bonus point.
Navan Senior Men’s 1st XV Squad “Sponsored by Hannon Travel“:
Ryan Healy, Jamie Kavanagh, Leigh Jackson, Jordan Finney, Eoghan Noonan, Liam McAree, Robbie Lailvaux, Harry Hester, Jake Matthews, Evan Dixon, Ben McEntaggart, Kyle Dixon, Sean McEntaggart (Capt), Sean Walsh, Rory Gordon, Gary Faulkner, Michael Brady, Cíaran O’Reilly, Harry Beggy, Peter McEntaggart.
“The Central” Player of the Match: Ben McEntaggart.