Rainey Old Boys 12, City of Derry 19
Neil Burns’ kicking proved decisive as City of Derry fought back from a half-time deficit to reinforce their position as AIL Division 2B favourites with a derby victory over county rivals Rainey Old Boys at Hatrick Park.
Terry McMaster’s men trailed 12-10 at the break following four Rainey penalties from the boot of Josh McIlroy with the Judges Road men replying through a David Ferguson try and a conversion and penalty from Burns.
And, for the third week in succession, it was Derry defence that proved critical as Derry held the Mid-Ulster men scoreless in the second half with Burns kicking three high-pressure penalties to seal a deserved victory that increases the Derry lead at the top of the table to 16.
With neither Sunday’s Well nor Greystones in action at the weekend, Highfield’s 15-10 home victory over Barnhall saw the Cork side regain second place with a game in hand over Derry.
Ironically, the game started amid reasonable weather conditions. Rainey kicked off and immediately got a soft penalty for offside from which McIlroy gave them an early 3-0 lead.
Derry worked themselves into the game though and forced a line-out just inside the Rainey half. Derry went for a five man line-out as 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 carried the ball forward to set up 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 Ferguson at his side, it was a two-on-one with their full back. Bratton drew the man and Ferguson sprinted in from 20m to score an excellent team try, Burns converted and Derry were 7- 3 in front and looking ominous.
However, the visitors’ enthusiasm got the better of them again when Derry coughed up another penalty for offside and despite there being only eight minutes on the clock, McIlroy kicked beautifully from 45m to reduce the deficit to 7-6.
Derry seemed to lose concentration thereafter but the Judges Road men defended like they had done in their previous games against Seapoint and Highfield and there was no way through for Rainey. However, McIlroy kicked another penalty for offside on 18 minutes and Rainey were in front at 9-7.
The momentum had turned in Rainey’s favour but Derry 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 as Derry in explicably gave away a scrum penalty on 35 minutes which allowed McIlroy to increase the home advantage to 12-7. Burns reduced the arrears just before half time with a 35m penalty to leave things evenly balanced at 12-10 at the break.
Torrential rain greeted the player for the second half but Derry turned the screw and Rainey never got out of their own half for the remainder of the game. The Judges Road men defended the halfway line like it was their goal line and Rainey struggled under the 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 backs were now getting plenty of ball with Stuart Simpson impressing against his former team mates. Simon Logue gave a ‘Man of the Match’ performance in a position not his natural while Burns was solid at out half and kicked beautifully all afternoon.
It took Derry 16 minutes to get their noses in front thanks to Burns who went on to kick two further penalties on 60 and 70 minutes to confirm Derry’s dominance.
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; 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.