All Ireland League Round Robin: Monivea 18 City of Derry 33

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City of Derry Rugby Club produced a sparkling performance as they returned to winning ways on Saturday last with an emphatic victory in their All Ireland League Round Robin game against Monivea the Connacht Junior Champions at the Castle Grounds, Monivea. Derry having lost their first game in this series to regain Senior Status against Seapoint at home two weeks ago have now put themselves right back in contention with this five try bonus point win.

The other game in this competition saw Seapoint beat Richmond from Limerick at home on Saturday by 38pts to 12pts and leave them top of the group with nine points, Derry and Monivea have five points each with Richmond pointless. City of Derry are at home in Judges Road to Richmond next Saturday while Seapoint have to travel to Monivea. Derry are now in control of their own destiny and a bonus point victory over Richmond would guarantee automatic promotion depending on the result of the Monivea game or they could go into a playoff if they finish second in this mini league which will be away to Portadown who finished second from bottom of All Ireland League Division 3.

City of Derry produced the level of performance on Saturday that they attained when they defeated Armagh three weeks ago in the playoff to determine the Ulster representatives in this Round Robin Series. This was a revitalised reenergised City of Derry that shrugged off their lack lustre performance of two weeks ago against Seapoint and proved that having been forced into a four day turnaround after playing Armagh, it had left them physically and mentally drained and carrying too many injuries.

Monivea started in confident mood and had Derry under pressure inside their 22 meter line for the first fifteen minutes. Derry’s defence was outstanding and to a man they had to dig deep showing patience and discipline as wave after wave of attack was thwarted within inches of the Derry line. Bob McKillop led his troops by example and put his body on the line getting the support of both back and forwards. Sam McAuley, Karl Gemmell, Stephen Corr and Chris Shields made some massive hits in this initial period in keeping their line intact. Derry eventually weathered the storm and a great break by Ryan Campbell almost resulted in a Derry try on 19 minutes courtesy of Sam McAuley but lack of support denied a score.

Monivea got their noses in front with a penalty from Ger O’Connor for a Derry infringement on 22 minutes and Richard McCatrer failed for Derry from a similar distance 3 minutes later. City of Derry were coming more into the game with quality possession as the half progressed, David Houston was winning line out ball off the top and the back row of Stephen Simms, Stephen Corr and Karl Gemmell were winning the battle of the breakdown. Andrew Semple with a clever chip over the Monivea defence on 28 minutes almost produced a try for Simon Logue. Richard McCarter got quick ball on the Monivea 22 meter line on thirty minutes following good work by Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy, McCarter delivered a long pass to Simon Logue on the left wing who showed great strength and determination to fend off his man and pass inside for Peter Henderson to score an unconverted try wide out.

Derry’s lead was short lived when another infringement at the breakdown on 35 minutes allowed Ger O’Connor to kick his second penalty for a 6pts to 5 lead for the Connaught men. Derry were soon back on the attack with Centres Jarred Bennett and Ryan Campbell to the fore and from a scrum on the Monivea 22 meter line quick ball from Andrew Semple to McCarter found Simon Logue wide left and he rounded his man for an exceptional try which McCarter converted to give Derry a 12pts to 6pts half time lead.

Derry started the second half as they had finished the first in attack mode and with Josh Lewis getting more ball on the wing and clever kicking by McCarter, Monivea were finding it difficult to get out of their own half. Houston and Corr were pressurising the Monivea throw all through and on 10 minutes an overthrow on their own 22 metre line found Stephen Simms at the back of the lineout who drew the out half before passing inside to Karl Gemmell to score a try under the posts which McCarter converted for a thirteen point lead. Monivea came right back at Derry and two minutes later produced a flowing move that allowed their right winger Rory O’Connor to score an unconverted try in the corner to reduce the deficit to 19pts to 11pts in Derry’s favour.

City of Derry were back in the Monivea 22metre line form the kick off and intense pressure from Derry as Monivea moved the ball along their backline inside their own 22 meter line allowed Richard McCarter to nip in and intercept the ball for a try under the posts which he converted himself to give Derry a 26pts to 11pts lead and more importantly a bonus point for a fourth try. There were still 25 minutes left in the game and Monivea threw everything at Derry who had David Houston sin binned on 18 minutes. Derry were under pressure but they raised their performance and with Karl Gemmell giving a Man of the Match performance he was in the thick of everything and initiating many turnovers with support from his pack. Monivea should have had their No 8 sent off on 25 minutes for stamping on Gemmell face as he was trapped in a ruck on the ground in front of the referee but the soft option was taken and a yellow card was produced.

Derry got Houston back on the pitch and with the extra man they were back on the attack as the game came to its conclusion. The Derry pack were winning ball at will and Simms, Corr and Gemmell were producing go forward ball, Semple released McCarter on thirty five minutes and McCarter waltzed in from 30 meters to score a converted try to give Derry a 33pts to 11pts lead. Monivea showed spirit right to the end and were rewarded with a try from Kevin Higgins with the last move of the game which was converted by Ger O’Connor to leave the final score 33pts to 18pts and a convincing win for City of Derry.

City of Derry Coach Bevan Lynch said after the game “the dream is still alive and now our destiny is back in our own hands. Make no mistake about it but Monivea put it up to us today and they will give Seapoint a run for their money next week. We had to defend early but our discipline was exceptional and we were capable of opening them up when we got good ball. The support we had today was overwhelming and it was great as the team coach came through Monivea to see Derry faces from one end of the village to the other, it gave the team a great lift and made them want to perform for everybody. It was quiet emotional for us all. We now prepare for Richmond from Limerick at home on Saturday and if the support is anything like last Saturday it should be a memorable occasion, I would say the players can’t wait”.

City of Derry Team; Peter Henderson, Josh Lewis, Jared Bennett, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue, Richard McCarter, Andrew Semple, Chris Shields, Sam McCauley, Sam Duffy, David Houston , Bob McKillop (Capt), Karl Gemmell, Stephen Simms, Stephen Corr. Replacements; Jason Mitchell, Stephen Duffy, Philip Brady, Mark O’Connor, Rudi Moore.

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