City of Derry RFC 23pts, NUIM Barnhall 18pts
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry Rugby Club travelled to Celbridge, Co Kildare on Saturday last and came away with a hard fought victory over NUIM Barnhall in their All Ireland League Division 2A fixture. Both teams had bonus point victories in their first AIL games the previous weekend with Barnhall very impressive away to Bruff winning by 33pts to 13pts and Derry comfortably beating neighbours Rainey by 42pts to 21pts. Barnhall came to last Saturday’s match quietly confident of victory on their own patch by the banks of the Liffey and were in the game and leading with fifteen minutes to go.
Derry started in whirlwind fashion on a beautiful autumn afternoon with Richard McCarter at out half pulling the strings and showing class in everything he did. The Judges road men got in for a score on two minutes when McCarter took play to the right through his pack with Stephen Dickey, Sam Duffy and Stephen Corr taking play inside the 22. McCarter was in the game again following quick ball from scrum half Jack Caithness and with a 30 meter cut out pass to the left wing he found Captain David Funston who used winger Simon Logue outside him as a decoy to run in from 20 metres for an unconverted try in the corner.
Barnhall came straight back at Derry from the kick-off and with sustained pressure they kept play on the 22 metre line. They won a scrum 15 metres out from the Derry line to the left and their scrum half Rob Holt worked the ball to their outstanding left winger Robbie McGrath who showed blinding pace to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try and it was 5pts all with six minutes gone. That was McGrath’s tenth try of the season from just four games.
Derry were finding it difficult to get their early momentum back on track as Barnhall were winning the territorial advantage and following sustained pressure their full back Simon Gillespie kicked a penalty from 30 metres when Derry were caught off side and Barnhall led by 8pts to 5pts after 15 minutes. Richard McCarter was varying his game with superb kicking out of hand and bringing his backline and forwards into the game with short and long passing. McCarter kicked a superb penalty for 40 metres against a slight breeze on 26 minutes to level the scores at 8pts all.
Derry lost hooker David Ferguson to the sin bin on 27 minutes for a late tackle and they received a major setback three minutes later when Richard McCarter went to make a break in midfield and suffered a groin strain in the process and was replaced at out half by young Neil Burns after 30 minutes. Barnhall were enjoying the better of the exchanges as half time approached but they lost their hooker Gareth Murray also to the sin bin after 34 minutes. Barnhall missed a kickable penalty on the half time whistle with the teams locked at 8pts all.
The second started with Derry finding it hard to get any rhythm in their game with continuity of play at a premium. There were many good individual efforts but a unity of purpose was impossible to achieve at this time. Barnhall were rewarded for pressure with a penalty on 8 minutes and Gillespie gave his team the lead at 11pts to 8pts. Derry Coaches Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair went to the bench to try and energise they charges and brought Chris Cooper and Paul McFeely into the pack. Derry got some territory on 11 minutes through Richard Baird and Stephen Ferguson and when Barnhall went off side Neil Burns levelled the score at 11pts all with a shot 20 metres out in front of the posts.
Derry were eventually getting their hands on the ball but were very unlucky on 14 minutes when it looked that a Barnhall player had knocked on over 30 metres from the Derry posts and players hesitated but the referee allowed play on. Robbie McGrath picked up the loose ball and sprinted in for a try between the posts and with Gillespie converting the home team lead by 18pts to 11pts. The Derry Coaches made a game winning change half way through the second half, they brought Ryan Campbell from the bench to the left wing and moved Simon Logue to scrum half. Logue was the catalyst that ignited the Derry team and with Sam McAuley also on the pitch quick scrum ball was won on 23 minutes on the Barnhall 20 meter line. Logue moved the ball to the left to allow Ryan Campbell to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try and Barnhall now lead by 18pts to 16pts.
Derry moved their play to a different level now as Adam Bratton, Chris Barber and David Funston came more into the game and with the pack firing on all cylinders quality ball was assured. Derry winger Josh Lewis was about to leave his mark on the game in attack and defence on 26 minutes. Firstly the Derry scrum produced their best of the day 20 metres inside their own half and Richard Baird and Simon Logue had the audacity to work an unexpected eight nine move, Logue was on Baird’s shoulder to show pace and take play inside the Barnhall half before drawing the last man and offloading to Josh Lewis who touched down between the posts from 40 metres and with Burns converting Derry were in front by 23pts to 18pts.
Barnhall tried to get themselves back into the game but Josh Lewis produced a crunching tackle on his opposite winger and danger man Robbie McGrath on thirty minutes and McGrath had to leave the pitch injured. With McGrath off for the remainder of the game Barnhall’s get out of jail card was also gone and their threat had dissipated as Derry controlled the remainder of the game. Derry’s Head Coach Mark Nicholl said last week that he would take nine points from the first ten on offer and that is exactly what he got. Simon Logue got the Man of the Match accolade for his game changing performance with Stephen Corr the best forward on show for the Judges Road men. Derry are back to Ulster Senior League action next Saturday at home to Dungannon.
City of Derry RFC Team V NUIM Barnhall: Chris Barber, Josh Lewis, David Funston, Adam Bratton, Simon Logue, Richard McCarter, Jack Caithness, Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Dickey, Stephen Ferguson. Replacements; Sam McAuley, Paul McFeely, Chris Cooper, Ryan Campbell, Neil Burns.