Rainey OB 12 pts, City of Derry RFC 19pts,
City of Derry Rugby Club reinforced their position at the top of All Ireland League Division 2B on Saturday last at Hatrick Park, Magherafelt when they defeated Rainey Old Boys in a hard fought game as the weather deteriorated in the second half. Derry were behind by 12pts to 10pts at the break following four penalties for Rainey from the boot of Josh McIlroy with the Judges Road men replying with a David Ferguson try and a conversion and penalty from Neil Burns. Derry held the mid Ulster men scoreless in the second half and Neil Burns kicked three penalties to seal a deserved victory that sees his team now sixteen point clear at the league.
The game started on Saturday with reasonable weather conditions, it was dry with little breeze. Rainey kicked off and immediately got a soft penalty for offside and Josh McIlroy kicked for a 3pts to nil lead for the home team. Derry worked themselves into the game immediately and got some go forward ball from their pack and got a lineout just inside the Rainey half. Derry went for a five man lineout and hooker David Ferguson found Chris Cooper at the front, scrum half Simon Logue moved the ball quickly to John Burns at out half who connected with centre Stuart Simpson who took the ball up the middle to setup a ruck. Logue picked out the powerful Adam Bratton in full stride as he broke two tackles to get in behind the Rainey defence and with Captain David Ferguson at his side it was a two on one with their full back. Bratton drew the man and Ferguson sprinted in from 20 meters to score an excellent team try, Neil Burns converted and Derry were 7pts to 3pts in front and looking good.
Derry coughed up another penalty for offside again on eight minutes and McIlroy kicked beautifully from 45 meters to reduce the deficit to 7pts to 6pts. Derry seemed to lose concentration and were pushed off the ball on their own scrum after ten minutes just inside their own half. Simon Logue playing out of position at scrum half was getting better as the game progressed and kicked beautifully and relieved the pressure with a long relieving kick to touch to take play into the Rainey half.
Stuart Simpson and Aly Beckett both made telling breaks into the Rainey half on fifteen minutes but loose play allowed the Magherafelt men to hack the ball downfield to cause consternation in the Derry ranks. The Judges Road men defended like they had done in their previous two game against Seapoint and Highfield and there was no way Rainey were going to cross the Derry line. McIlroy kicked another penalty for offside on eighteen minutes and Rainey were in front by 9pts to 7pts.
The momentum had turned in Rainey’s favour but Derry slipped into defensive mode and discipline and commitment to the tackle made sure the Magherafelt men never threatened their line. Rory Squires came on for Ross Harkin at loose head prop and Derry inextricably gave away a scrum penalty on thirty five minutes and McIlroy increased Raineys lead to 12pts to 7pts. Richard Baird came on for Derry and looked hungry and very lively from the start. Neil Burns reduced the arrears just before half time with a long range penalty from 35 meters to leave the score at the break 12pts to 10pts for the Rainey.
The weather turned just after half time with torrential rain and Derry turned the screw and Rainey never got out of their own half for the remainder of the game except to kick off on three occasions after penalties. The Judges Road men defended the halfway line like it was their own goal line and Rainey struggle under intense pressure. Derry upped their game and a solid scrum was key with Rory Squires, David Ferguson and Sam Duffy all powerful and well supported by David Houston, Chris Cooper and the improving Adam Bratton who is playing at the top of his game. The Derry back row were terrific all afternoon with a terrific bench that had a big say in Derry fortunes as Steven Dickey, Stephen Corr, John Burns, Craig Huey and Richard Baird all made an impression.
The Derry backs were now getting plenty of ball and Ali Beckett, Jack Beattie, Ian Bratton, David Graham, Stuart Simpson were all playing well. Simpson was having an impressive game against his former team mates and loved every minute of it. Simon Logue was everywhere and to fit in so readily at scrum half is a testament to class footballer he is as he gave a Man of the Match performance. Neil Burns was solid at out half and kicked beautifully all afternoon. It took Derry sixteen minutes to get their noses in front and Neil Burns kicked a penalty and it was 13pts to 12pts for Derry.
Neil Burns kicked two further penalties for pressure on twenty and thirty minute to confirm Derry’s dominance and Rainey looked well beaten long before the finish. Derry are away to Greystones, Co Wicklow next Saturday and then its back to Judges Road the following week for a local derby against Dungannon.
City of Derry RFC Team V Highfield; Ross Harkin, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Simon Logue, Neil Burns, Jack Beattie, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Ian Bratton, Ali Beckett, Replacements; Rory Squires, David Houston, Craig Huey, Richard Baird, Neil Brown.