City Of Derry RFC Notes: I XV 35 v Banbridge RFC I XV 22: REPORT

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City of Derry Rugby Club produced an outstanding display of attacking rugby at Judges Road on Saturday last as they ran out convincing winners in their All Ireland League Division 2A fixture against Banbridge. Derry came from ten points behind early on to score thirty five unanswered points in a fifty minute spell that sealed a bonus point victory and kept the goal of a top four position for the season alive with just five games remaining. The Judges Road man are now just one point behind Banbridge in fourth position in the table and with Derry’s five remaining games against teams below them in the table the goal for their season is definitely attainable.
Banbridge were well up for this fixture and were determined to put a halt to their recent run of defeats in the AIL that has seen them slide for pole position to fourth in the table. The early exchanges saw a very physical and focused Banbridge on top at the breakdown and it took sterling Derry defending especially from Captain David Houston, Ryan Campbell, Chris Barber, William McCleery and Richard Baird to keep them at bay. Derry were finding it difficult to get out of their half with the Banbridge line speed and tackling keeping the pressure on the home team.
Banbridge scored from pressure after eleven minutes when Derry tried to run the ball out of their half. Adam Doherty the Bann out half intercepted a pass form his opposite number Richard McCarter in midfield to sprint in from 50 meters and touch down for an unconverted try and a 5pts to nil lead. This setback did not faze McCarter who was back to his brilliant best varying his teams running and kicking game and in the process amassing a personal tally of 20pts.
Derry were trying to play themselves back into the game but some good play came to nothing on a number of occasions with a miss pass to the opposition or a dropped ball or other infringement. Derry got possession turned over on the half way line after twenty minutes and quick movement by the Banbridge backs and forwards saw their big second row and captain Simon McKinstry make ground and off load to his Number 8 Dale Carson who drove in to touch down for an unconverted try and a 10pts to nil lead for the Bann.
Derry were now getting some decent possession with Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson and Sam Duffy domination at scrum time, they were well supported by second rowers Brian Prue and Chris Cooper who was superb in the line out. The early Banbridge enthusiasm and dominance was beginning to subside as the Derry back row of Stephen Corr Tom Patton and Richard Baird were winning the battle of the breakdown and Baird became involved in everything that was good about Derry’s play.
The momentum of the game had changed in Derry’s favour and this was confirmed on twenty six minutes when centre Chris Barber got possession from scrum half Jack Caithness just inside the Banbridge half. Barber chipped the defence from 35 metres out and collected the ball to touch down for a try wide out and with McCarter converting Banbridge lead was down to 10pts to 7pts. Derry’s superiority at this stage was confirmed with some great attacking rugby from William McCleery and Simon Logue which was rewarded with two penalties from the boot of McCarter which gave the home team a 13pts to 10pts lead at the break.
Banbridge missed an early penalty with just two minutes gone in the second half and their demeanour changed when they saw Derry Coaches Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair send to the bench for the enforcers. Sam McAuley, David Witherow and Paul McFeely came into the front row with Bob McKillop to the second row. Peter Henderson slipped on unnoticed behind the four heavy weights and this was a brave decision and a statement of intent from the Derry Coaching staff. The result was immediate as pressure once again told as McCarter kicked his third penalty with just five minutes gone in the second period.
Richard McCarter’s kicking from hand and ground was exceptional all through as he nursed his team forward with some long touch kicking. Derry were well on top now with David Funston having a great game making some incisive breaks at the heart of the Banbridge defence. Richard Baird capitalised on good play from Funston on ten minutes when he made a break inside the Banbridge half and when he passed to Chris Barber the writing was again on the wall as he chipped ahead once more and beat the defence to touch down deep in the in goal area for a terrific try which McCarter converted for a 23pts to 10pts lead.
The game totally swung Derry’s way on twenty minutes when Banbridge lost their captain Simon McKinstry to the bin. Derry capitalised immediately and put the game to bed within five minutes. Firstly when a penalty was reversed McCarter kicked for touch 20 meters out. Chris Cooper won possession and when the ball was moved along the backline Richard McCarter dummied and sidestepped the defence and strolled in for a try from 20 meters out for a classic McCarter try which he converted himself for a 30pts to 10pts lead. The influential David Funston got in for an unconverted try and the bonus point two minutes later and it was game over with Derry leading by 35pts to 10pts.
City of Derry seemed to relax at this stage and coughed up two late try’s to allow Banbridge to get a four try bonus point from the fixture. The Bann got in for the first of those try’s on thirty three minutes when Derry seemed to go to sleep at a five metre line out, their hooker Jonny Weir took a quick throw in to McKinstry at the front of the line who returned the ball to Weir and he went in untouched to score an unconverted try and reduce the arrears to 35pts to 15pts for Derry.
Banbridge were getting more possession as the game entered the closing minutes and following good control and a number of pick and drives David Weir touched down for a try which Adam Doherty converted to leave the final score 35pts to 22pts a terrific home victory.
This was a really enjoyable game for the large home support who are being treated to some scintillating attacking rugby this season. The highlight of the game was two wonderful try’s from Man of the Match Chris Barber and what a way to celebrate his 21st Birthday. City of Derry will travel to Cork next weekend to play Highfield. They are normally a bid physical team and will pose a massive challenge for the Judges Road Team who will be looking to continue their recent run of good form. City of Derry 2nd XV also defeated Banbridge at home on Saturday by 16pts to 12pts which was great preparation for their Towns Cup Q/Final Fixture at home next Saturday against Dungannon.
City of Derry Team V Banbridge; Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Chris Cooper, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Jack Caithness, Richard McCarter, William McCleery, David Funston, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue. Replacements; Sam McAuley, David Witherow, Paul McFeely, Bob McKillop, Peter Henderson.

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