City Of Derry Rugby U19’s remain unbeaten in League.

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City of Derry went to Coleraine on Wednesday night to play the hosts under lights in the first leg of their league encounters. It was a case of top playing second in the league and the positions were reflected in the game! In almost perfect conditions watched by a sizeable home support the game kicked of the home side receiving the kick off.
It was obvious from early on that this was going to be a close affair with the number of hits coming in from the home side, some of which were not strictly rugby tackles! After one such late , dangerous hit on the Derry outhalf Keys a penalty was awarded and Conall Doherty took up the kicking duties from a dazed Keys. The kick was sweetly struck and the Derry boys were off the mark. The visitors were probably shading the possession but resolute defence and big hits were stopping any momentum from building and so stifled any good phases from the Derry team. Ill discipline around the ruck area was heavily penalised by the referee and this cost Derry dear in terms of good field position and quality ball. There was no quarter asked or given and the rugby was all played between the to 22m lines with some great defence and counterattacking by both teams. The half drew to a close with Derry pushing hard with a number of rucks and scums close to the Coleraine line but good defence and Derry mistakes made sure the score stayed at 3 points to nil at half time.
A few stern words at half time regarding securing the ball and playing the patterns seemed to do the trick! The Derry forwards were by now dominating scrum and lineout and the backs were starting to get more good ball where outhalf Keys, who had by now recovered, was having a good night bringing in his runners and spreading it when there was room. In defence when the Coleraine team kicked it long full back Ian Bratton fielded every ball and returned it with interest straight back at the home side. On one such blistering return on 12 minutes, he was stopped about the 22m line and ball was recycled well by the forwards, after possession was retained for a number of phases and ground was gained, big Ciaran Allen showed good strength and speed to power over for a good score. The difficult conversion attempt was successful by Conall Doherty and this brought the score to 10 – nil in favour of the City side. The City team had to make a substitution as winger Brian Cooper picked up wrist injury which later turned out to be a fracture, we wish Brian a speedy recovery! Manus McLaughlin came on to the second row and Ben Porter moved out to the wing, the introduction of McLaughlin to the scrum helped beef it up and it was not long before he was involved in the thick of it. The pack were by now securing better ball and good interplay between forwards and backs where Cillian Doherty and captain Spratt were to the fore , took the play once again to the visitors line. On 24 minutes gone of the second half a scrum was awarded to Derry 5mts out, the ball was won and moved blind where it was quickly shifted through three pairs of hands until Ronnie McElwee crashed over the line out on the touchline, the difficult kick was missed narrowly by Doherty. With the score at 15 points to nil the Derry team kept the pressure on but handling mistakes and errors around the rucks meant that they did not get anymore scores. On the plus side the defence was again very good and they maintained a clean sheet with Coleraine unable to penetrate, in saying this midfield defence could be better during set plays. This was indeed a great game to watch and it was two good teams having a good go at playing some nice rugby, the home sides No8, fullback and 1st centre were a handful all night but the general discipline and leadership of the Derry team stood to them in this tight encounter. A lot of players played well with the front row of Allen, Boyd and Spratt assisted by the rest of the pack, putting in big games and in the backs Doherty looked dangerous any time he got ball and space. The Man of the Match award however goes to two players, both backs, for their fearless effort and great counterattacking, these are Richard Keys and Ian Bratton.
The Derry boys travel again on Saturday to play Ballymoney in the league and this high standard must be maintained if they are to get the right result!

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