TWO tries in as many minutes midway through the first half of this All-Ireland semi-final saw Navan through to the final at Bann’s expense.
There was no denying the Leinster champions’ right to progress, with Bann struggling to find the form that had seen them clinch the provincial league title so convincingly.
The well-organised Meath side edged the set pieces, taking three strikes against the head at scrum time and several lineouts on Bann throw-ins. And with Irish Youths out-half Fergal Cleary orchestrating, they defied the wind in their faces to keep Bann on the back foot for much of the first half.
A scrum on Bann’s 10 metre line 18 minutes into the game provided the platform for the opening score, with winger Mark O’Meara making the most of an overlap to touch down in the corner. Full-back Eamonn Sheridan struck over a fine conversion.
When Bann’s re-start drop-out went straight into touch, Navan opted for the scrum back on halfway. This time Cleary decided to test the frontline defence himself and it proved worryingly fragile as the out-half broke through and out-paced the cover on a 50 metre sprint to the try line. Sheridan strangely failed with the easier conversion, but his side were now looking comfortable at 12-0 ahead.
To their credit Bann worked hard to get back into the game and the half finished with Navan desperately defending their line and eventually conceding a penalty, only for Macauley Little’s kick to graze the outside of the uprights.
Bann resumed on the offensive after the interval and for the first 13 minutes of the second half they battered at the Navan defensive lines.
The Ulster side managed to disrupt an opposition scrum five metres out and Little almost forced his way over the try line. Bann eventually won a penalty, with the offending player being shown the referee’s yellow card.
Bann spurned the kicking option to put Adam Stirling in possession but the left winger was bundled into touch short of the line. That allowed Navan to relieve the pressure and when play moved to the other end Sheridan was wide with a penalty effort. But the full-back made sure with an easier kick on 54 minutes, leaving Bann needing three scores to retrieve the situation.
They put enough pressure on the opposition to force the match official to produce the yellow card to two more Navan players, but the score needed to spark a revival didn’t materialise as Navan saw out the time remaining despite their numerical disadvantage.
This was a disappointing performance from a Bann side who will have the chance to show their supporters their true form when they take on Malone at Ravenhill on 5th May in the final of the CE Bowman Ulster U-17 Cup.
Bann team:- Jason Gribbon, Kenneth Wiltshire, Ben Cross, Jonny Adams, Adam Stirling, Macauley Little (Capt), Josh Coyle, Lee Geddis, Timothy Savage, Alan Thompson, Stuart Walker, Nathan Connery, Matthew Beck, Adam Copes, Neal Cochrane. Replacements (all used):- Jake Dennison, Richard Graham, Ross Haughey, Josh Cromie, Wayne McCurry.