City of Derry Rugby Club travelled to Donnybrook in Dublin on Saturday last to play Bective Rangers in their All Ireland League Division 2A fixture. Derry needed a win to keep their hopes alive of finishing in second place in the league and an automatic promotion place to AIL Division 1B for next season. The men from the North West produced an indifferent performance but still ran out winners by five points and scored five try’s in the process thus getting an important bonus point win. This was Derry’s tenth successive win in all competitions and with just two games left in the AIL League there is every chance that the final promotion spot will not be decided until the last Saturday of the season. Derry now have a must win game at home next Saturday against Belfast rivals Malone that should draw a bumper crowd to Judges Road.
The conditions in Dublin on Saturday were perfect for rugby on a hard well worn pitch. Derry started with real structure, rhythm and flow to their game and were soon dominating the game in the Bective half. The first score was not long coming with the large Derry crow still settling in their seats in the stand. The early errors came from Bective as a result of constant pressure and Stephen Ferguson gobbled up loose 30 meters out on six minutes and when he drew the last man his back row mate Richard Baird was on hand to run in for a try under the sticks and with Richard McCarter converting it was a 7pts to nil lead foe Derry.
Derry were playing some attractive rugby now and they were dominating at scrum time courtesy of front row Chris Shields, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy and with support from Brian Prue and David Houston go forward ball was a given for a lively back row of Stephen Corr, Richard Baird and the outstanding Stephen Ferguson who had some powerful drives in this period. The back row produced on sixteen minutes when Corr combined with Baird who drove powerfully for the line and then Ferguson almost got in but quick ball found Richard McCarter who connected with Chris Shields who crashed over the line by the posts for a forwards try which McCarter converted for a 14pts to nil lead.
Derry suddenly lost their way as has been a trait all season at the game entered the second quarter. They were falling off tackles giving Bective confidence and all of a sudden the shape that was there earlier was gone as a fractured defensive performance was the vogue. It was all Bective now and it was no surprise when Daragh Fitzgerald got in for a try on twenty three minutes and with Cormac O’Beirne converting Derry’s lead was back to 14pts to 7pts. Bective came straight back at Derry from the kick-off and sustained pressure again allowed out half Cormac O’Beirne get in for a try close to the posts which he converted himself and it was 14pts all with thirty one minutes gone.
The pendulum had definitely swung in Bective’s favor and it looked certain that they going to add to their tally and go in leading at half time. David Funston was sent to the bin on thirty four minutes. Time was ebbing away towards half time when Bective butchered a golden opportunity to score. Derry cleared their lines and got play to the half way line. Bective turned over possession and had men over and a try looked on as they moved the ball across the backline but Man of the Match Stephen Ferguson intercepted and drove forward and quick as a flash Simon Logue was on his shoulder and it was try time as Logue sprinted in from 40 meters to touch down between the posts and with McCarter converting it was a fortuitous lead at half time for Derry by 21pts to 14pts.
The half time chat from City of Derry Head Coach Bevan Lynch and his assistant Mark Nicholl seemed to have addresses the faults and failings of the first half as Derry went on to own the next thirty minutes of the second half. The Derry backs were suddenly getting quality ball with centers Chris Barber and David Funston having more influence on the game along with Peter Henderson, William McCleery and Simon Logue and with Andrew Semple and Richard McCarter orchestrating affairs it was all out attach from Derry.
Bob Magic McKillop pounced on loose ball 40 meters out on the wing after fourteen minutes and when he drove forward and produced a sublime overhead pass to Chris Barber that mesmerize the Bective defense it was an easy run in try the improving Coleraine man and with McCarter converting Derry’s lead was 28pts to 14pts. Derry were using their rolling subs and Gareth Beattie, Stephen Duffy, Adam Bratton and Richard Peoples all played their part. Derry produced five powerful scrums in a row on twenty seven minutes and a penalty try looked on but Baird drove forward supported by Corr and Ferguson and quick ball allowed Semple to find Peter Henderson who got in for an unconverted try and Derry lead by 33prs to 14pts and looked home and hosed.
This Derry team does not do winning easily and suddenly they switched off once more and allowed Bective a chance of winning the game. Ferdia Kenny got in for an unconverted try on thirty one minutes and three minutes later David Halliday got in for another Bective five pointer and the lead was reduced to 33pts to 24pts for Derry. Richard Peoples steadied the ship with a long range penalty from over 40 meters on thirty nine minutes but straight from the kick-off big second row Joe Moran got in for another Bective try due to inept Derry tackling once again and when Cormac O’Beirne converted Derry’s lead was down to 36pts to 31pts as injury time arrived. The referee blew the final whistle to gasps of exasperation from the Derry contingent of players, coaches and supporters but it’s on to another massive showdown against Malone at Judges Road next Saturday.
City of Derry Team V Bective; Chris Shields, , Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Brian Prue, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Chris Barber, David Funston, William McCleery, Peter Henderson. Replacements; Gareth Beattie, Stephen Duffy, Bob McKillop, Adam Bratton, Richard Peoples.