City of Derry defended their home record and in the process crashed the much favoured Harlequins outfit out the Ulster Senior Cup. Although Derry thoroughly deserved their 24-22 victory at Judges Road the victory looked unlikely until two brilliant individual efforts that sealed the comeback!
The encounter mirrored the previous week in the early quarter with Derry quickly getting into their stride, winning clean ball at the set pieces and building multiple phases. Derry regularly unlocked the Harlequins defence but scrambling defence managed to snuff out many promising raids.
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Derry should have opened their account after an exceptional break from Richard Baird. After fending his way past the covering Harlequins winger he gifted a great ball to Sam McAuley who became to the first of many Derry players to uncharacteristically drop a ball with the line beckoning. However, Derrys dominance at scrum time saw Harlequins fail to clear there line and Derry took the ball back deep into the 22. After scoring an 85m scorcher last week Adam Bratton displayed his full array of try scoring skills with a classic pick and go try from close range. Richard McCarter hit a conversion from wide out to make it 7-0.
Derry’s dominance territorially continued with Chris Cooper and Richard Baird securing a steady supply of lineout ball and upset and stole a number of Harlequins throws. This coupled by a number of turnovers at the breakdown from Walker, Duffy and McAuley snuffed out Harlequins infrequent ventures into Derry’s 22.
A dominate Chris Cooper claimed good ball 10 metres out for the Quins line and the forwards displayed great patience setting up a formidable maul which gave captain Sam McAuley an opportunity to erase the memory of the previous lost scoring opportunity. His score was again converted by in form Richard McCarter . Derry looked set to take a commanding first half lead but a brilliant counter attack run from a missed penalty clearance saw Matthew Heany beat half a dozen hapless Derry defenders before linking with a his winger to score close to the uprights. Heany failed to converted to leave the margin at 5-14. Derry where in a generous mood when they gifted a turnover in their 22 from a lineout maul. The resultant phases that followed saw Quins string together some strong carries with big Michael Ferguson a constant threat. Eventually a missed tackle saw Derry leak another soft try to see their advantage reduced to 12-14.
Adam Larkins troops were happy turning around with a strong breeze at their back and even happier when an excellent kick had Derry pinned on their line. After a bemusing decision at the breakdown halfback Andrew Semple was penalised for his protests and Quins turned down the penalty kick and laid siege on the Derry line. After repeated pick and goes the Quins hooker burrowed over the try and the lead with Matthew Heany converting to put Harlequins up 19-17.
Derry despite playing into the strong wind dominated territorially for the majority of the second half and played all the rugby. However sloppy handling and uncharacteristic errors enabled Harlequins to clear their lines many times as promising raids were repelled. Simon Logue made a promising bust only to pulled back for an off the ball incident which saw Mark Walker sin-binned. The resulting penalty saw Matthew Heaney widen the margin to 5 points with as many minutes left.
Derry who were last year’s beaten finalists were not ready to surrender their spot in the next round. From the kick off Adam Bratton and Man of the Match – Richard Baird combined to put in a brutal tackle that saw the ball spill loose and Quins had to scramble to get it over the touchine. Derry’s focus and accuracy at the breakdown improved and Quins constant infringements at the breakdown saw a number of penalties awarded. After been held up yet another penalty was awarded and the ever alert Baird tapped and showed remarkable strength to power through two defenders and stretch for the line. Referee Mark Heremansen was in perfect position to see the grounding and Derry supporters prepared themselves for extra time. However a remarkable touchline conversion from Richard McCarter into the gusting breeze split the uprights and Derry hit the lead in the final minute 24-22.
Supporters that have watched Derry over the last three years know they like to do it the hard way. After clearing the ball it appeared to all present that Quins winger had knocked on. However play was waved on and it was deemed a Derry player had impeded the kick chase. This gave Matthew Heaney a chance to snatch the game in added time. However, he was cruelly denied by the paintwork with the ball striking the upright and a relieved Derry team cleared to end this enthralling encounter.
Coach Bevan Lynch was pleased that his team had reached the quarters of the Cup. “Cup competitions are special and we enjoyed our run in the Cup last year. I think we deserved the win but we did our best to lose it at times. The lads worked really hard this week to address areas we struggled in last week. That effort shone through today – the lineout was outstanding and from that we looked a far more confident team.
Derry’s next fixture is to host the Cup Champions Dungannon at Judges Road 8pm this Wednesday in the Ulster League. This will give coach Bevan Lynch and Mark Nicol another opportunity to try new combinations with a number of new recruits displaying considerable talent in a dominant 2nd XV display which saw them run out 46-17 winners against Harlequins.
City of Derry 2nd XV 46 v Harlequins 2nd XV 19
Derry continued their unbeaten start to the season with a seven try comprehensive win over Belfast visitors Harlequins. Derry kicked off with the breeze behind them and after nine minutes livewire scumhalf Ian Vance darted down the blindside from 40 yards out to score under the posts. However against the run of play on 17 minutes Quinns got on the scoreboard when their centre intercepted a pass on halfway to race over. Quinns added their second four minutes later when from a scrum on the 22 and poor Derry tackling allowed their right winger to score far out.
Derry then started to dominate territory and possession which resulted in big second row Philip Brady crashing over on 28 minutes after taking a quick tap penalty. Winger Phil Duffy added Derry’s third try on the stroke of half time when after the pack went through the phases the ball was moved left for Duffy to sprint in and put Derry 21-12 ahead
Derry started the second half facing into a strong wind and a very determined Quinns side. However Derry went on the offensive immediatley and scored their fourth try on 48 minutes. After winning good line out ball from young Graham Dunne, son of former Derry prop Johnathan, the ball was quickly moved right for winger Stephen Brennan to touch down. Outhalf David Murdock added a penalty five minutes later when shortly after Quinns added their third when their prop crashed over from a short penalty. Derry now started to dominate the scrums and scored their next try on 72 minutes when second row Adam McDuff crashed over after shunting Quinns back on their put in on the 22 to put the home side 36-19 ahead. Derry’s dominance continued at scrum time when Phil Brady, now playing at eight, added two push over trys on 74 & 78 minutes to complete his hatrick and Derry worthy winners.
Derry now look forward to the first round of the Junior Cup next Saturday at home to Larne 1stXV