All Ireland League – Navan 14 Old Wesley 50
This was Old Wesley’s first visit to Navan since February 2020, just before rugby was cancelled due to Covid-19. Those that were present that day will remember the freezing cold and blizzard conditions. By sharp contrast today’s match was played in fine, dry and near balmy weather.
Old Wesley started with enthusiasm and after just two minutes were on the scoreboard. After gaining ground into the Navan 22 a perfectly floated pass by Paddy McKenzie found Tommy O’Callaghan on the wing who crossed for a try in the corner. Navan looked like they may level the score with a midfield break, but an intercept prevented any damage.
After 12 minutes Wesley were again on the attack when good carries by Ian Cassidy, Josh Pim and David Poff had them back deep inside the opposition 22. But a crooked line out allowed the home side to escape. But shortly after Alex Molloy took a pass, found a gap, and sprinted 40 metres to score the second try. Wesley continued to show dominance. Then on 30 minutes slick handling by O’Callaghan, Iain McGann, and others led to a try by Cassidy, which he converted for a 17 nil lead.
Navan’s woes were not helped when Ben McEntagart was shown a yellow card five minutes before the break. However, as often the case, they raised their game and were soon applying pressure on the Wesley goal line. But Wesley’s defence held firm and a penalty eventually allowed them to lift the siege just before half time.
Navan opened the second half with gusto. Neat interpassing between Paddy Fox and Evan Dixon down the left wing led to the latter scoring their first try under the posts, which was converted to make it 17-7. But Wesley responded immediately. McKenzie took a pass 20 metres out and proceeded to weave his way through the defence to score the bonus point try.
Old Wesley were now playing with huge confidence and even displayed some Barbarians style rugby. But they reverted to forward power for the next try. JJ O’Dea was causing all sorts of problems for his former club and came near to scoring on a couple of occasions, before Ben Burns got the grounding under the posts.
To their credit the home side kept going and, continuing the theme of open play by both sides, showed enterprise leading to their second try by Sean McEntagart. With the conversion it was 31-14. A glimmer of hope for the locals but that was to be the end of their score count as Old Wesley ran in three more tries.
The first of these tries was scored by Cassidy after Josh Pim and JJ O’Dea put in some good carries bringing play deep into opposition territory. With five minutes to go and with the Navan defence struggling, Brendan Monahan found himself in open territory and had a simple run in for try number 7.
With time up both sides were eager to keep the game alive with the possibility of a late score. But with Navan running from inside their own 22 it was risky play. And, sure enough, when Paul Harte intercepted one of their passes and strolled in for the final try. The conversion made it the half century and full time.
The result puts Old Wesley 16 points clear in the league where they cannot be caught. There are just 7 points between the next four sides, Highfield, Shannon, Naas and St. Mary’s so we probably will not know until after the final league match who we will meet in the semi-final play-off.
As part of an awareness and fund-raising initiative for “Rugby Shows some Heart” founded by ex Old Wesley player Graham Burns, the Old Wesley players wore a variety of different coloured, odd and sometimes outrageous socks for the match
OLD WESLEY Scorers: Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan, Alex Molloy, Ian Cassidy (2), Paddy McKenzie, Ben Burns, Brendan Monahan, Paul Harte. Cons: Ian Cassidy 5.
OLD WESLEY Team: Alex Molloy, Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, David Poff, Brendan Monahan, Paddy McKenzie, Ian Cassidy, Cronan Gleeson, Ben Burns, Rob O’Donovan, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (capt), Will Fay, Josh Pim, Reuben Pim. Replacements: Robert Byrne, Harry Noonan, Sam Kenny, Paul Harte, Bill Corrigan.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson