City of Derry RFC 40pts, Armagh RFC 18pts.

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City of Derry RFC 40pts, Armagh RFC 18pts.
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry RFC got their Season up and running in style when they defeated Armagh in the first round of the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup at Judges Road on Saturday. This was the home team’s first competitive fixture under new Head Coach Terry McMaster and with all his new recruits on show producing the goods, three try’s in each half made sure the result never looked in doubt.

It was a beautiful afternoon for rugby with warm sunshine for a change at the end of a miserable summer weather-wise. Derry suffered a setback in the warm up and Simon Logue with an ankle strain was saved for another day with forward Stephen Duffy taking his place on the wing. Derry started brightly and had all the forward momentum initially but good Armagh defence held them at bay. Andrew Semple at scrum half and Neil Burns at out half were combining nicely early on to keep Derry on the front foot. There were 10 minutes on the clock when Semple found wing forward John Burns with an inside pass 40 meters out, the Captain for the day backed himself to beat two men and touch down for a try by the posts and his brother Neil converted and Derry were in front by 7pts to Nil.

Derry lost centre Stuart Simpson with a dead leg after 12 minutes with Richard McCarter coming on at out half and Neil Burns moving to centre. The pressure and physicality around the breakdown from the home team was the feature of the early play. The set piece was good from Derry with the front row of Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan and Sam Duffy having the step on the scrum and David Houston lording the lineout supported by Adam Bratton who worked tirelessly all afternoon. There was a good balance in the back row form Derry with great work rate and power in the tackle from Steven Dickey at blind side, Craig Huey at No8 and John Burns at openside that allowed them win the battle of the breakdown.

Armagh lost their second row to the bin on 18 minutes as the Derry backline were beginning to click into gear. Derry butchered a try opportunity on 20 minutes but the signs were good and ten minutes later the Omagh recruits combined to show the potential Terry McMaster had anticipated when they came to the Club over the summer. Semple released winger Neil Brown who made a searing 40 metre break and full back Ali Beckett was on his shoulder like a siamese twin to receive the pass and touch down for an unconverted try and Derry were in front by 12pts to Nil. Bob McKillop, Graham Murphy and Corey Logan were released from the bench to make an immediate impact. Wing Forward Logan was making his Senior Debut having played for Derry Under 18’s last season.

There was great rhythm and movement in Derry’s play now and a simple backs move produced an overlap on 32 minutes to allow Man of the Match Ali Beckett to touch down for his second try and Neil Burns converted. Armagh got a late consolation penalty just before the break and Derry’s lead was 19pts to 3pts at half time.

Derry started the second half with aplomb and after a minute gone they moved the ball along the back line where centre David Graham showed a nice bit of vision and skill to chip behind a flat defence 22 meters out. He collected himself to touch down near the posts for a try, Neil Burns converted for a 26pts to 3pts lead. Armagh kicked another penalty to reduce the deficit to 26pts to 6pts.

Derry made a great break out of defence on the hour mark through Neil Brown that should have produced a try but Armagh were able to retrieve the situation but the alarm bell were ringing. Neil Brown conjured up another piece of magic a minute later when on another mazy run he produced two dummies and a side step to outfox the Armagh defence and touch down for a great individual try wide our, Neil Burns kicked a great conversion and Derry’s lead was 33pts to 6pts.

Beckett made another great break on 65 minutes and a try went a begging. Armagh retorted with a converted try to bring a bit of respectability to the scoreboard and reduce the deficit to 33pts to 13pts. Armagh were under the pump again from continuous Derry pressure and lost their prop to the bin on 72 minutes. Armagh to their credit got in for an unconverted try on 77 minutes and the score was 33pts to 18pts.

Derry had the final say as the game entered the final minute, young Corey Logan who showed strength and nous to win a penalty for Derry with Armagh holding on in the tackle 30 meters out. Derry kicked for touch and produced good lineout ball 5 meters out, the Derry pack had a powerful drive for the line and John Burns touched down for his second try and with brother Neil converting for an impressive Derry victory on a final score of 40pts to 18pts.

City of Derry RFC start their All Ireland League Division 2B campaign next Saturday away to MU Barnhall in Dublin.

Meanwhile City of Derry 2nd XV’s were away to Dungannon last Saturday and recorded an impressive39pts to 10pts victory. Derry were 5pts to 3pts down at half time but three try’s from Man of the Match fullback Ian Bratton and one each from Conor Cummings and Matthew Kilgore saw the referee blow up 13 minutes early. Alex McDoneell had a terrific game at out half with Gerard Doherty, Ross Harkin and Brendan Ferguson(Brother of Stavo) the best of the forwards.

City of Derry RFC 1st XV Team V Armagh RFC; Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, David Houston, Steven Dickey, John Burns(Capt), Craig Huey, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Stephen Duffy, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett. Replacements; Graham Murphy, Bob McKilliop, Corey Logan, Richard McCarter.

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