Naas 15pts, City of Derry RFC 16pts
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry Rugby Club travelled to Naas, Co Kildare on Saturday last for their All Ireland League Division 2A Fixture. The goal and destination were simple but the execution and achievement can sometimes be fraught with dangers and the unknown. Victory was the goal with only five games remaining in the season and the destination is to finish in the top ten and secure playing at the same standard and league next season.
The Judges Road men had a 7.30am start on Saturday and it was needed as the forecasted snow for Donegal was dumped on the Sperrins instead from 7am onwards. It was a whiteout on Glenshane but Hannibal never let snow worry him when he crossed the Alps and the Romans thought it was an impassable barrier but I suppose he had the Elephants which the Romans had never seen before, “Magna Vaccarum”. The weather improved as we got down the slopes and turned into a beautiful day in every sense of the word.
Naas started the game with all guns blazing and were three penalties in front after fifteen minutes through the boot of out half Peter Osborne as Derry struggled to get their hands on the ball and get into the game, but the Kildare men were 9pts to nil in front. The Judges Road men eventually got some possession in the Naas half but momentum was lost as Hooker David Ferguson was injured and was replaced by Cathal Creggan. Derry won a scrum and Naas infringed, Andrew Semple reduced the deficit to 9pts to 3pts. Derry were working hard with Mark Walker, Adam Bratton and Stephen Corr an outstanding back row unit. Bob McKillop and David Houston made the tackles and carried ball supported by Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan and Sam Duffy.
Nass got a bit of forward momentum before the half hour mark and Derry got another setback as Adam Bratton was sent to the sin bin and Osborne kicked another penalty for a 12pts to 3pts lead. The penalty count against Derry was mounting and the first half slipped by as Osbourne kicked another penalty deep in injury time to leave the half time score 15pts to 3pts for Naas. The positives for Derry were outstanding defence as Naas never threatened their line, got inside the 22 or looked like getting a try all game. Derry struggled with their kick chase game and there seemed to be a disconnect between their forwards and backs all sortable at half time.
Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster brought on Richard Baird and Johnny Kennedy for the second half and Derry were on the attack with Semple reducing the deficit after five minutes with an easy penalty and it was 15pts to 6pts. Derry were clicking into gear as the Preverbal Elephants were fetching and carrying and it was all out attack attack. McKillop, Houston, Corr and the rest of the pack were laying down a massive statement and if Naas wanted to survive they would have to go to war.
Derry produced on fifteen minutes as Semple and Richard McCarter started orchestrating the assault on the Naas line. Stuart Simpson made a great break and Derry had a go at the line and were stopped short a few times then McCarter found Baird to release Josh Lewis who beat a couple of men before touching down for an unconverted try wide out and Derry were one score behind at 15pts to 11pts down.
The game was now in the balance but getting the key to unlock the Naas defence was going to be difficult as they hung on as if their lives depended on it. Peter Henderson fed Johnny Kennedy who was almost away on thirty minutes but a great tackle stopped him. It was a war of attrition as the game entered the last five minutes of normal time with Derry pressing. Naas tried to clear their lines going into injury time but kicked directly into touch from just outside their 22.
Houston won the line out and his pack drove forward once then again and again, Naas coughed up a penalty 10 meters out but Derry needed a try to win. The Fat Lady was clearing her throat, McCarter the Conductor looked her in the eye as it was not her time and he had to call on the Piano Movers one final time. McCarter kicked for touch and a 5 metre line out, Houston won the ball and the forwards drove down the right hand line, Semple sniped and committed a back or two then Baird sniped and another back committed. Semple quickly found McCarter who picked out David Graham loose on the left wing with all the time of the day to run in and touch down for an unconverted try in the corner. Game over and Derry in front for the first time at 16pts to 15pts.
Naas kicked off and McKillop and Houston made sure they owned the ball as the last play saw the referee blow the final whistle, the Derry supporters, Team and Management went wild as celebration time was nigh and McCarter gave the lady a nod to start the pipes the pipes.
City of Derry RFC Team V Naas RFC; Chris Shields, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, David Houston, Adam Bratton, Mark Walker, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Tiernan Thornton, Stuart Simpson, Josh Lewis, David Graham, Peter Henderson. Replacements; Ross Harkin, Cathal Creggan, Richard Baird, David Devine, Johnny Kennedy.