City Of Derry RFC Notes: I XX 14 v Highfield RFC I XX 17 REPORT

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City of Derry RFC 14pts, Highfield 17pts
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry Rugby Club crashed to their second All Ireland League Division 2A defeat in a row on Saturday last at home to Highfield from Cork having been beaten away to Banbridge in their previous game. These two setbacks in successive weeks for the Judges Road men will have severely dented any ambition they had of finishing in the top two promotion positions in the league. The expectation of Coaches and Players and Supporters would have been two victories with possibilities of bonus point wins. The corollary for Highfield in performance and mathematical terms was to continue their current winning sequence and accumulate another four points in their quest for survival in AIL 2A.
Derry started the game with all guns blazing and a rhythm and a flow to their play that saw them in front after twenty minutes at 14pts to nil up. That was to be the home teams last score of the game as Highfield led by their inspirational Captain and Man of the Match Dave Kelly controlled possession and territorial advantage as they reduced the deficit to 14pts to 12pts at the break. Derry were outplayed in the second half as they lacked direction and a unity of purpose. Highfield relished the challenge and got a vital try after just twelve minutes of the second half and they held out as Derry coughed up possession recklessly in a totally disjointed second half performance.
Derry started the game on the attack with their pack in control and Neil Burns at out half keeping the ball in front of his pack with some neat kicking out of had to the corners. The home front row of Chris Shields, David Ferguson and Paul McFeely had the upper hand powered on by the second row of Bob McKillop and Chris Cooper. Their dominance paid off after just eight minutes when from a five meter scrum the referee awarded a penalty try and with Burns converting Derry were in front by 7pts to nil.
It was all Derry as an under pressure Highfield defence kicked ball loosely to Simon Logue at full back. Logue was very lively and with support from his wingers Ryan Campbell and Josh Lewis, they terrified the Cork defence. Logue picked loos ball again and made a terrific break from his own 22 on twenty minutes, he linked with McFeely and McKillop who both made big carries inside the Highfield 22. Qick Ruck ball and with the Highfield defence in disarray Andy Semple at scrum half who was having a fine game found Burns who released his backline, David Funston found Adam Bratton outside him and he drew the cover to release his winger Ryan Campbell to crash over for a great try in the corner and Burns converted for a 14pts to nil lead.
It all looked so simple for the Judges Road men with the back row of Ferguson, Corr and Dickey winning the breakdown and driving past the collisions to leave easy ball for Semple. Derry nearly put the game to bed on twenty two minutes when their backline pulled an exquisite move from the Joe Schmidt Leinster Playbook. Good quick ruck ball on the right side of the pitch saw Semple, Burns, Funston and Bratton pull a slick wraparound move at pace 30 meters out to connect with Logue coming into the line wide out left with Campbell outside him. The pass to Logue was not spot on as he had to check his run and the cover arrived and a golden chance to crown a beautiful move was gone as Derry’s dominance of the game ended at that point.
Highfield got out of their half on twenty five minutes and won a penalty 30 meter out and went for touch. Good line out ball allowed Maurice Power and Ritchie Moran along with Dave Kelly to drive for the Derry line and big prop Jason Carton touched down for an unconverted try and Highfield were in the game at 14pts to 5pts down. Derry were suddenly playing second fiddle as Dave Kelly was leading Highfield from the front and there was no surprise after a series of pick and drives along the Derry line on thirty seven minutes. Kelly himself powered in for a try and with centre Ian O’Donohue converting the score was 14pts to 12pts for Derry with half time approaching.
Derry Coaches Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair went to the bench and brought on a powerful front row of Steven Jefferson, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy and their impact was immediate with some powerful scrums. The Highfield Pack hung in there as the tide had turned and the Lee was flowing towards Ballincollig and with Macroom in sight it was all Cork as they turned around at half time having just missed a kickable penalty.
The second half was a non event for Derry as Richard Baird was brought from the bench after ten minutes but was sent to the sin bin a minute later for an indiscretion. Highfield were now dominant and on twelve minutes they won a line out and produced a powerful driving maul that went in to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try with winger Paul Stack getting the vital and winning score.
Derry’s game fell to pieces as their pack were outmuscled at ruck and maul time and quality ball was at a premium for scrum half Andrew Semple. The possession that Derry got as the game progressed was hard earned but cheaply given away through unforced errors that thwarted any organised attacking play. The game progressed with the home team unable to mount any serious attack that looked like producing a winning score as Highfield controlled the tempo of the game to their own effect as they ran out deserved winners.
City of Derry RFC Team V Highfield : Chris Shields, David Ferguson, Paul McFeely, Bao McKillop. Chris Cooper, Stephen Corr, Stephen Dickey, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Ryan Campbell, Adam Bratton, David Funston, Josh Lewis, Simon Logue. Replacements: Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Steven Jefferson, Richard Baird, Mark Robinson.

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