Nenagh Ormond RFC

Founded 1884

Co. Tipperary

Narrow Defeat in Navan

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Last Saturday was a huge game for Nenagh in many ways in the context of their Energia league campaign and in other ways not so much. On the one hand with a bonus point win being enough to guarantee them the league title it could have been the day to win the club’s highest honour in its history, a place in Division 1B and the top 20 clubs in Ireland. On the other hand being match 16 of 18 and with an 11 point cushion over the chasing pack deep down Nenagh would have known there were other chances to seal the deal here should they falter here. That lack of jeopardy can be telling in these cases. Navan on the other hand were locked in a major dogfight at the wrong end of the table and desperate times can bring a big reaction, which was certainly the case here. Conditions were dry but extremely windy and managing the elements would be an important factor in the outcome of this game. What transpired was an absorbing and full blooded contest but ultimately a disappointing outcome for Nenagh.

Nenagh kicked off into the teeth of the wind and immediately were met with some very aggressive Navan defence when they regathered possession. This was to be a theme of the game in general. The home side were content to give the visitors the lion’s share of possession and back their blitz defence to offer up handling errors from Nenagh. One such spill just inside the Navan half allowed their out half to execute a neat 50-22 and provide lineout possession deep in Nenagh’s 22. This introduces the next theme in Navan’s game plan, once field position could be established in Nenagh’s 22, which admittedly was a rare event, the Meath men were ruthless in retaining possession and taking their scoring chances. A well set maul on this attempt set the platform for some quick, aggressive carries and a gap opened in the centre for a try near the posts which was converted for an early 7-0 lead. If Nenagh expected an easy day out, they now knew this would not be the case.

Hungry for a reaction, Nenagh chased hard on the restart. Unfortunately they were over eager and played the catcher in the air to allow Navan to push them back downfield once more with the aid of the wind. Nenagh dominated the next 10 mins or so in terms of possession but had to work desperately hard for yards in the face of a rabid Navan defence. It might be questioned as to whether that defence were trying their luck in terms of the offside line, living on the edge certainly but really really effective and aggressive nonetheless. It’s hard to fault Nenagh in this period. Much of what they did was really well executed and while kicking behind such a rushing defence is usually a good option, the wind on the day made this a little too risky, certainly while playing against it. Another issue in the wind of course is the lineout and unfortunately for Nenagh two hard won entries to the Navan 22 in the opening quarter came undone as this set piece proved a lottery. A third lineout was executed superbly setting up a good attacking maul destined for the Navan line but when it was unceremoniously hauled down there was surprisingly no penalty awarded, not to mention a potential penalty try. A scrum was given for a Navan knock on in the follow up. Again a really good attacking play was executed but a handling error on potentially the scoring phase lifted the siege and Navan again used the gale to clear their lines. While early in the contest you could say this period summed the day up for Nenagh. Utterly dominant in terms of possession, territory and ambition but unfortunately not the actual scoreboard.

Navan, from the next phase fashioned their only other foray of the half into Nenagh territory. As can happen on these types of days Nenagh maybe tried too hard to win back possession right away. That being said it looked like they had a legitimate shout at a turnover jackal in their 22. The referee felt the Nenagh tackler didn’t roll fast enough though and awarded Navan the decision which they happily took the three points from to lead 10-0 approaching half time.

Nenagh’s reaction was really strong though. Opting to change their attack slightly by taking quick pick and go carries to beat the Navan rush defence, Nenagh rapidly made inroads to the Navan 22. This time they opted not to over complicate matters when they got there and kept it tight. Kevin O Flaharty found a chink in the Navan line and opened Nenagh’s account for the day. 10-5 remained the score at the turnaround.

With the wind behind them Nenagh established great field position to start the half but a penalty was coughed up. Navan however struggled to exit against the stiffening gale and on Nenagh’s next attack a high tackle was spotted by the referee and Conor McMahon tapped it over to narrow the gap to two and it was game on for a Nenagh side growing in confidence.

Good bench impact and energy in Nenagh’s attack buoyed by the elements was stressing the Navan defence and a slew penalties followed.Round the hour mark a penalty to the corner saw a good maul set up which milked one such penalty from Navan. Other days this might yield a yellow too particularly as it was similar to the situation earlier in the game. Ultimately none came. The wind maybe put Nenagh off the idea of mauling again. The decision was made to tap, a turnover was coughed up and the attack was fruitless. In the end this proved to be a key moment.

The next Nenagh attack brought the next penalty, this time in a very kickable position. A rushed decision to tap again meant no card once more for the defence and worse again the initial good yards yielded saw Willie Coffey isolated from his support and turned over. Nenagh’s endeavor needed to be rewarded on the scoreboard in this period but amazingly they were still behind. Part of this is owed to serious resilience from the Navan defence but Nenagh will have to look at their own execution and decision making too which is hard given the high level of industry they were showing all through.

Scrum pressure with about ten to play yielded a good penalty. Running out of time and needing to get in front, the kick option was taken this time for an easy 3 points and an 11-10 lead. You really felt the lead needed to be more for the pressure applied.

The restart was well won but a failure to make touch allowed territory to Navan on the kick return. This was Navan’s first meaningful phase of possession in the 2nd half at the worst time possible in the overall context.

Navan, needing the win to stave off relegation concerns, and probably steeled by the fact of being still in a game which they scarcely deserved to still be in on the balance of opportunities, now threw the kitchen sink at Nenagh. Nenagh for their part executed superb turnovers on at least three occasions in the last 5- 10 mins. Crucially though despite the wind in their favor they struggled to get the ball out of play to force a contest for possession downfield. Navan for their part showed really good ability to retain the ball which for much of the game they struggled to or elected not to do. Unfortunately for Nenagh the energy levels poured into their attack earlier in the game left them a bit leggy in the end game. Navan accumulated a huge number of phases and eventually isolated two of Nenagh's front row in the wider channels which the Navan backline exploited gleefully for a line break and try to break Nenagh hearts on the last play.

It’s very difficult to be overly critical of Nenagh here. They played nearly all the rugby, were dominant in most measures of performance but ultimately lost out to a team who in fairness to them, possibly had the greater need on the day. Credit to them for having their homework done and clearly they came up with a plan to frustrate Nenagh and target some of their key carriers in particular. All of this leads to a massive game at home to Barnhall this Saturday. With a ten point gap between the sides Barnhall must win and get a bonus point, all while depriving Nenagh of any points to bring the league contest to the final day. Nenagh on the other hand know that even one point will wrap up the league and cue huge celebrations in Lisatunny on Saturday. It’s all set up for a thriller. For just €10 entry you won't find a much better spectacle next weekend. Get out to Lisatunny for 2.30pm for what hopefully might be a very historic day in the 140 year history of NORFC.

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