City of Derry RFC 23pts, Sundays Well RFC 18pts.
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
How oft do our thoughts in their fancy take flight, well on Saturday past as City of Derry RFC arrived at Musgrave Park top of All Ireland League Division 2B following two bonus point victories and Sundays Well bottom of the table. The fanciful among us would have anticipated another easy four try bonus point victory and return to the Banks of our own lovely Foyle after three games running away with the league. Munster Rugby men are a breed unto themselves and sure enough the Cork men reverted to type and produced fifty minutes of forward driving rugby that tested Derry’s spirit and resolve as the Well led by 12pts to 6pts. The Judges men then cut loose from their shackles to score three trys in a fifteen minute spell to win the game and keep them top of the league five points clear of their nearest rivals.
The weather was perfect for rugby on Saturday with the sun shining and a little breeze on the best pitch in Irish Rugby. The early exchanges between the teams were even with Derry’s Neil Burns and Wells Mark Chandler kicking penalties on three and nine minutes for a 3pts All. John Burns won a penalty for holding on in the tackle on the half way line after fourteen minutes and brother Neil kicked a massive penalty to put Derry in front by 6pts to 3pts. David Ferguson had come on at hooker for Cathal Creggan who got a knock earlier.
Derry were struggling to get their hands on the ball as their backline were starved of possession. Ali Beckett broke out of his own half on twenty minutes and as the ball was moved along the backline David Graham made a powerful run to the Well 22. Derry won a penalty for a breakdown infringement and kicked for a 5 meter lineout but their first spell of real momentum was short lived as they were turned over at the line out. Sundays Well had a lot of possession in the Derry half but great defence from Stephen Corr, Steven Dickey, John Burns well supported by second rowers Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton kept the Corkonians at bay. Beckett was beginning to look lively and made another break from his own half on twenty five minutes.
Play seemed to get bogged around half way with Well having the most of possession. The Derry scrum was solid all through with Chris Shields, Sam Duffy and David Ferguson having a great battle against the three Moynihan brothers in the front row for Sundays Well. The last ten minutes of the first half belonged to Sundays Well as they camped inside the Derry 22. Their big forwards were thwarted time and time again by superb defense from Derry as Andrew Semple, Stuart Simpson, Simon Logue and Neil Brown put their bodies on the line along with their pack to keep their line intact. Derry went offside on thirty six minutes and Chandler levelled the scores at 6pts All.
Well came back at Derry from the kick-off with their forwards dictating play. They won a penalty on thirty nine minutes and kicked for a 5 meter line out, a catch and drive took them to the Derry line but Bratton, Cooper, Corr and co kept them out. Derry lost David Ferguson to the sin bin in injury time and Chandler kicked a penalty from 15 meters in front of the post to give the Well a 9pts to 6pts lead as Derry survived the onslaught with guts and courage in abundance. The game was dead in the first half and was and in drastic need of a spark from someplace.
Sundays Well started the second half back on the attack as Derry still struggled to get quality ball, the hope was that if possession was obtained by the Judges Road men something could happen. Chandler kicked a penalty for pressure on ten minutes and the Well led by 12pts to 6pts. City of Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster decided to play his cards as he went for the full house and brought on three aces from the bench Richard McCarter, David Funston to the backline and Craig Huey to the forwards. Their impact was immediate as McCarter was throwing cut out passes and linking with backs and forwards, Funston started running straight and powerfully and Huey showed his massive improvement with his and power all over the pitch.
Beckett ran a ball out of defence on fourteen minutes and Semple connected with McCarter who found Funston to let him loose on a storming run. Quick ball at the breakdown and Semple again connected with McCarter to give a deft inside pass and Beckett was in for an unconverted try, Derry were behind by 12pts to 11pts. Funston broke again four minutes later and Derry and Funston were on fire, Semple connected with McCarter with quick breakdown ball to set Beckett free inside the Well 22 as David Graham was on his shoulder to score an unconverted try out wide and Derry were in front by 16pts to 12pts.
Sundays Well came back from the kick off and caught Derry off side 40 meters and Chandler kicked the resultant penalty to leave Derry leading by 16pts to 15pts with twenty minutes to go. Tight Head Prop Rory Squires fresh from Ulster Under 20’s duty came on for Sam Duffy. Derry produced a strong scrum against the put in on twenty seven minutes; Craig Huey stole the loose ball and drove forward. Quick ruck ball and Semple to McCarter let Funston loose again on a barnstorming run, Man of the Match Beckett accepted a simple pass to touch down by the posts from five meters, Semple converted and Derry were two scores ahead at 23pts to 15pts.
Derry were now in control as Sundays Well were obliterated with a three try burst and they game looked over. Sundays Well had the final say on the stroke of full time as McCarter was sent to the bin and Chandler rescued a losing bonus point when with the last kick of the game as he converted from 40 meter to leave Derry winning by 23pts to 15pts. The City of Derry Squad all returned home after the game to prepare for Armagh at home next Saturday again in the All Ireland League with a 2.30pm Kick-off.
City of Derry RFC Team V Sundays Well; Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns(Capt), Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Simon Logue, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett. Replacements; Rory Squires, David Ferguson, Craig Huey, David Funston, Richard McCarter.