Inspirational: City Of Derry RFC Notes: I XV 22 v De La Salle Palmerston RFC I XV 17: Official Report & Pictures

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City of Derry Rugby Club produced an outstanding team performance to defeat high flying De La Salle Palmerston on Saturday last in their All Ireland League Fixture at Judges Road. The key to Derry’s success was an outstanding aggressive set piece which dominated completely at scrum time and secured their own line our superbly with go forward ball when required. De La Salle came to Judges Road well prepared arriving in the City on Friday night and expectant of victory to secure their second place in the league and promotion to AIL Division 1B. They were met with a unity of purpose and commitment that saw every Derry Squad member tackle as if their life depended upon it and eventually had De La Salle in disarray and without shape as they strove for that elusive score for victory.

The heavy frost of the previous three days coupled with mid morning torrential rain saw the Judges Road 1st Pitch saturated and unable to drain come game time so the match was transferred to the 2nd Pitch which was perfect for rugby. Derry started positively with pressure but it was De La Salle who were first on the scoreboard on 8 minutes when a slick simple backline move saw scrum half Ian Burke find centre Francis Cooney and when Phil Debarra picked out full back Adam Philpott hitting the perfect line it was try time and when Burke converted it was 7pts to nil for the visitors. That score and the manner of its execution might have given the South Dublin men a false sense of what the war ahead was going to hold in store.

The next twenty minutes belonged to Derry in territorial terms in fact the rest of the first half was all theirs as they owned possession and territorial advantage. Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Brian Prue and David Houston were magnificent in both tight and loose and as a result De La Salle went to the bench as early as the fifteenth minute to replace a prop and hooker by bringing on Shane Johnston and Steve Bensaid. Derry showed their power on 27 minutes from a 5 meter scrum ball against the head Stephen Ferguson picked the ball quickly and with support from Stephen Duffy and Stephen Corr, Ferguson found David Funston who touched down for an unconverted try in the left corner to put Derry right back in the game 5pts to 7 pts down.

The use of rolling subs by Derry Coaches Bevan Lynch and Mark Nicholl was crucial to maintaining their team’s momentum. Gareth Beattie when brought into the game was powerful at both second row or prop and he along with Cathal Cregan at hooker and backs William McCleery, Adam Park and Richard Peoples added to the options at their disposal. The only negative for Derry was the loss of the outstanding David Funston to injury on 30 minutes to be replaced by William McCleery who went to the wing with Adam Bratton moving to the centre to accompany Chris Barber. Derry were again on the attack as half time approached and once more scrum ball against the head allowed that man mountain Stephen Ferguson at No 8 to pick and score a forwards try which was converted by Richard McCarter to leave Derry leading at the break by 12pts to 7pts.

The second half was just 4 minutes old when once more a powerful drive by Ferguson caused De la Salle to infringe at the ruck and McCarter added the resultant penalty to increase Derry’s lead to 15pts to 7pts. Ian Burke added a penalty 3 minutes later for De La Salle to reduce Derry’s lead to 15pts to 10 pts. Derry continued to attach and Peter Henderson along with Simon Logue and the impressive William McCleery they always looked dangerous. De La Salle lost heir prop Keith Taite to the sin bin after 13 minutes while Derry lost Stephen Duffy also to the bin on 17 minutes as the tension rose with the game in the balance.

Chris Barber produced a great bit of fielding from an up and under on 23 minutes to setup sustained pressure from Derry that eventually produced the games turning point. Derry won a scrum 10 meters from the line on the left and coaches Lynch and Nicholl brought Captain Sam McAuley from the bench. Two powerful collapsed scrums later the referee David O’Brien awarded a penalty try to Derry and with McCarter converting Derry lead by 22pts to 10pts. This was a massive scrum from the Derry pack who justified their rating as the best scrimmaging pack in AIL Division 2A.

De Ls Salle came back at Derry and with Chris Shields sent to the bin on 30 minutes, sustained pressure told and prop Keith Taite got in for a try and Burke converted to close the gap to 17pts to 22pts. The game was up for grabs with 10 minutes remaining but a superb committed defensive display by Derry backs and forwards reduced De La Salle to a spent attacking force devoid of options. City of Derry were back on top as the referee blew the final whistle to signal a memorable 22pts to 17pts victory Derry’s sixth in a row. City of Derry’s next AIL game is next Saturday week away to Thomond in Limerick

City of Derry RFC Team V De La Salle Palmerston: Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Stephen Duffy, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, David Funston, Chris Barber, Adam Bratton, Peter Henderson. Replacements: Cathal Cregan, Gareth Beatty, Adam Parke, Richard Peoples, William McCleery.

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