AIL RUGBY: Vastly improved City of Derry push Navan all the way

City of Derry v Navan
City of Derry v Navan

Ulster Bank All Ireland League Division 2B

City of Derry 12, Navan RFC 37

Same result but a very different City of Derry as Navan left the Craig Thompson Stadium at Judges Road flattered by a 37-12 AIL Division 2B victory from which the home side should have at least secured a bonus point.

Trevor Will was able to welcome back Simon Logue at scrum-half with backs coach Richard McCarter once again donning the 'green and black' despite a close season decision to retire and the experience duo made a huge difference to the young home team.

Navan are one of the sides pushing for a top four finish and most likely arrived expecting a comfortable afternoon against a Derry side which has been brushed aside by side too often by side in recent months.

Marooned at the bottom with relegation looking little more than a formality, it says everything about characters with the Judges Road dressing room that Derry have regrouped and, made themselves competitive once more. Yes, it was another defeat but replicate this performance and cut out some of the handling errors and there is at last reason for optimism.

Young players like Killian Thornton and Thomas Cole have huge potential. It is not their fault they have had to be thrown into the All Ireland League mix very early in their development but they are growing in stature with every game and the return of McCarter and Logue provides them with perfect role models from which to learn.

Derry's scrum was superb against a big Navan pack. The same couldn't be said about a misfiring line-out in which Adam Bratton was the only real target, and thus easy to negate, but the intensity and determination alone gave the home crowd something to cheer about at long last.

Navan were ruthless, punishing almost every Derry mistake but that alone should give Derry hope. Cut out those rudimentary mistakes and this is a team they can at least compete against even the top sides in this division.

It didn't start well. Navan back row Conor Farrell spotting a gap in defence and darting through for a fourth minute try which was converted by out-half William Staunton.

Seven became 10 when Staunton added a penalty three minutes later but Derry's positive start was rewarded on 13 minutes when Logue intercepted in midfield and ran in from half-way to reduce the deficit to 5-7.

Derry's approach was typified by a huge tackle from Jake McDevitt which denied Navan prop Brain McGovern his side's second try.

McGovern's try wasn't far away though. Despite McDevitt's heroics, a loose Logue kick was seized upon by Ben McTaggart and while he was held up, McGovern was able to force his way over for 5-15.

A needless yellow card for Derry's Davy Graham after a inexplicable shoulder charge on McTaggart didn't help the home cause and the visitors took immediate advantage as prop Leigh Jackson scored with Staunton converting.

Full back Shane Walsh then got in on the act for Navana after a curious penalty decision to stretch the visitors lead to 5-27 but how Derry didn't score on the stroke of half-time only they will know. A textbook move saw the home team with four mean over but it was a case of 'too many cooks' as every left the final pass for each other and a certain try was lost.

The second half started with the otherwise impressive Gerard Doherty spilling possession in midfield from which Navan second row Conor Hand ran in for a unconverted try and a 32-5 lead.

A few weeks back that start would have floored Derry but not this time. The home side went on to dominate the half but too often got over excited close to the line or took the wrong option with a try beckoning. It was inexperience.

They eventually did get the second try they deserved when, following a succession of scrum in the Navan '22, play was switched left to where Graham made a brilliant break. Held up he was able to recycle possession to McCarter. With Cole on his inside, McCarter's dummy was bought by the whole Navan back line as he ran in under the posts and converted himself for 12-32.

Within minutes, an excellent driving maul put Navan hooker Sean Healy in for the game's final score but both side will have been reasonable happy at the final whistle.

Navan got the bonus point win they would have expected while Derry provided a timely reminder that the club has some talented players and can be a force against any side.

City of Derry: Ross Harkin, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Gerard Doherty, RodneyHill, Adam Bratton, Jake McDevitt, Craig Huey, Simon Logue, Richard McCarter, Tiernan Thornton, David Graham, Paddy Blenerhassett, Thomas Cole, Killian Thornton. (Replacements) Cathal Cregan, Barry Lafferty, Aaron Deery, Callum O'Hagan, Mark Craig.

Navan: Brian McGovern, Sean Healy, Leigh Jackson, Ronan Scott, Conor Hand, Conor Ryan, Conor Farrell, Bryan McKeever, Robert Waters, William Staunton, Ben McEntaggart, Riaan Maile, Vaa Maile, Sean McEntaggrt, Shane Walsh. (Replacements) Fiachra Finegan, S O'Heir, Justin Whittaker, James Ring, Sean Vodden.

Referee: Brendan Curtis (IRFU)