City of Derry RFC 35pts, Armagh RFC 17pts.

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City of Derry RFC 35pts, Armagh RFC 17pts.
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry Rugby Club continued their winning start to their All League Division 2B campaign when they recorded a four try bonus point win against their old adversaries Armagh at Judges Road on Saturday last. That was the Judges Road’s men’s fourth victory on the bounce as they retain their position as league leaders on nineteen points five ahead of Highfield in second place. Derry were in a good place at half time as they led by 27pts to 3pts with three trys from Neil Burns, Adam Bratton and John Burns. Armagh dominated possession in the second half but Derry held firm and sealed a terrific performance with that elusive fourth try with the last play of the game from Ian Bratton as the Burns and Bratton families celebrated with their Judges Road family.

The autumnal sunshine on a beautiful afternoon on Saturday started a bumper weekend of rugby for all supporters of the game. Derry started the game on the attack from the kick-off and Smon Logue, Neil Brown, Neil Burns, Stuart Simpson and David Graham all looked dangerous as Andrew Semple and Richard McCarter pulled the strings from half back. The early pressure yielded two penalties from Neil Burns on 8 and 15 minutes as Armagh were put to the pin of their collars to hold out as Derry led by 6pts to nil.

Armagh struggled to get out of their own half as the Derry pack were dominating the set piece with Ross Harkin, David Ferguson and Sam Duffy putting it up to their opposite numbers in the from row as Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton cleaned up at line out time. Steven Dickey, Stephen Corr and John Burns give Derry a well-balanced back row who dominated the breakdown and with quality ball from the front five it was attack attack.

Ross Harkin and David Ferguson looked lively carrying ball forward on twenty minute and quick ruck ball saw Semple finding Neil Brown who made a terrific break beating a couple of players and he passed to Neil Burns 20 meters out to run in for a try which he converted and Derry were deservedly in front by 13pts to nil. Armagh had a brief sojourn into the Derry half but Simon Logue was there to relieve any possible danger. Neil Brown made another clean break on twenty seven minutes and with Armagh committing too many men to firefighting on the right wing, Semple and McCarter moved the ball quickly left along the backline and Adam Bratton strolled in for a try by the post with a couple of his own players outside him. Neil Burns converted and Derry were cruising at 20pts to nil up.

Armagh got inside the Derry half from the kick off and a few outstanding tackles from David Ferguson put a stop to their progress. Johnny Pollock kicked a long range penalty for Armagh thirty after two minutes to leave it 20pts to 3pts for the home team. Neil Burns put in a nice chip and chase from half way on thirty five minutes and the Armagh cover knocked on. Derry won a scrum penalty and McCarter kicked for touch and a 5meter line out. Captain Ferguson found Chris Cooper in the line out and a terrific catch and drive with the backs joining in steam rolled Armagh back over their goal line and John Burns touched down for a try which brother Neil converted for a 27pts to 3pts lead. Armagh threw everything at the Derry line as time ebbed away in the first half but terrific defence with murderous tackles from Stephen Corr, Stuart Simpson, Stephen Dickey and John Burns stopped the Orchard County men as Derry led comfortably at the break.

Chris Shields came on from the bench to the Derry front row and was closely follow by Cathal Creggan. Armagh kicked off the second half and a miss field by Derry knocked on and gave Armagh cheap possession and it was like the flick of a switch as it initiated go forward ball and unity of purpose that saw a complete momentum change in the game. The Orchard County men drove for the Derry line and a wave of attacking play on the line saw James Morton touch down for a try and Jonny Pollock converted and the score was 27pts to 10pts for Derry.

Further Armagh pressure saw David Graham sent to the sin bin with the second half only six minutes old. Then a nasty incident on ten minutes saw the Armagh Captain and No 8 Neil Faloon sent to bin for an elbow into Andrew Semples face at scrum time. Derry got into the Armagh half on thirteen minutes and eked out a penalty which Neil Burns converted from 25 meters to put his team three scores ahead at 30pts to 10pts. Armagh came back and won a penalty after nineteen minutes but scrum half Harry Doyle opted for a tap and go. Derry then conceded 10 penalties in as many minutes as Armagh threw everything into attack. Craig Hues was now in the game but Derry lost Andrew Semple and Chris Cooper to the sin bin on twenty two and twenty six minutes as the home team went down to thirteen men.

Derry defended their line as if their lives depended on it, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Chris Shields along with Stephen Corr and David Ferguson were outstanding as they flung themselves into tackles. Armagh struggled to cross the Derry line and it took a penalty try from the referee for a scrum offence that allowed the visitors to put seven points on the scoreboard and Derry’s lead was 30pts to 17pts with just over ten minutes to go. Armagh were well on top but Adam Bratton and Stuart Simpson were strong in the tackle and Craig Huey was growing into the game and making his presence felt with power packed runs and strong tackling.

Armagh lost their second row to the sin bin on thirty five minutes and Derry got positon in the opposition half. The time was almost up as Richard McCarter made a sublime break and found his Captain David Ferguson who released Ian Bratton who had come on from the bench. Bratton did very well to beat two men a score an unconverted try in the corner with the last play of the game and Derry had secured that bonus point victory. City of Derry RFC are away to Ballynahinch next Saturday in the Q/Final of the Ulster Senior Cup.

City of Derry RFC Team V Armagh; Ross Harkin, David Ferguson(Capt), Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Neil Burns. Replacements; Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan, Rory Squires, Craig Huey, Ian Bratton.

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