CITY of Derry opened their 2011/12 season in style with a comprehensive three-try Ulster League victory over Banbridge at Judges Road on Saturday.
The County Down men had narrowly missed out on promotion to All Ireland League Division 2A last season when they were narrowly beaten in the end of season promotion play-off at Old Crescent. Derry however were keen to build on last season success and show just why their finished Division 3 campaign as champions.
When their play was structured, it allowed Derry to showcase the class that could have swamped Banbridge by half time if some of their exquisite interplay had been finished with the sort of conviction that will hopefully come as the season wears on.
The home side started the game with intent and after five minutes of constant attacking play from the forwards, Richard Baird touched down for a try in the corner which was converted by Richard McCarter.
Baird, Stephen Corr and Stephen Ferguson made for a powerful back row which bossed the forward exchanges early on and with aggressive support from Bob McKillop and Philip Brady, it gave Corr an opportunity to produce a ‘Man of the Match’ performance that highlighted the work he has done over the summer.
Derry continued to dominate the game and with new signing Adam Bratton enjoying a strong showing on his second ‘debut’ and being ably supported by David Funston, Banbridge found it difficult to break the defensive line.
The Derry scrum was dominant throughout with Sam and Stephen Duffy, alongside Chris Shields, keeping the Bann on the back foot.
Banbridge were being forced to kick out of their own half to gain any territory but on 20 minutes they made a mistake as a loose kick into the Derry half was pounced upon by the outstanding Peter Henderson. Henderson ran the ball back into the Banbridge half beating several players before passing to David Funston who kicked ahead for winger Josh Lewis to touchdown for an excellent try which was again converted by McCarter for a 14-0 lead Derry took to the break.
Banbridge came out in the second half in an aggressive manner in an attempt to disrupt the domination they suffered in the opening half but their over zealous approach backfired when they had a man sin-binned after 55 minutes.
Derry were being dragged into a scrap which was disrupting their focus and playing into the hands of Banbridge. As a consequence and with tempers rising, both sides had a man sent to the bin on the hour mark.
The loss of continuity in the game suited the visitors and Banbridge reduced the arrears on 65 minutes when quality possession allowed their forwards to gain good momentum which resulted in hooker Paul Ross getting in for a try which out-half Robin Thompson converted. At 14-7, Banbridge were right back in the game.
The Derry bench was unloaded as the second half progressed and control was eventually regained that allowed far more attacking play from the home side. Scrum-half Andrew Semple made a great break on 65 minutes and good play from winger Ryan Campbell allowed captain Sam McAuley to bulldoze his way for a touchdown wide out which was not converted but left the final score 19-7 in Derry’s favour.
City of Derry’s next game in the Ulster League is away to Belfast Harlequins this Saturday.
City of Derry: Chris Shields, Sam Stephen Duffy, Sam Duffy, Philip Brady, Bob McKillop, Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Josh Lewis, Adam Bratton, David Funston, Ryan Campbell, Peter Henderson. Replacements: Sam McAuley, Chris Cooper, Chris McDonnell, Simon Logue, Adam Parke.