City of Derry 32, Malone 13
City of Derry Rugby Club got back to winning ways on Saturday last at Judges Road when they recorded a comprehensive victory over Malone in the Ulster Senior League.
Derry were on top all through and turned around at half time 13-6 in front thanks to tries from full-back Ally Beckett and winger Simon Logue. The second half saw further tries from Logue, Jack Beattie and David Ferguson to see the home team record a bonus point victory to confirm their superiority on the day.
The weather was perfect for rugby last Saturday but for the supporters it was bitterly cold. Derry were on song from the off with a solid scrum from Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan and Rory Squires giving their back row of John Burns, Craig Huey and Stephen Corr a solid platform to work off. Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton controlled the line-out and primary possession was a given.
However, Derry suffered a setback with only five minutes gone when John Burns was forced to leave field when he got a finger in his eye. Kevin McLaughlin came on at wing-forward to make his senior debut for Derry.
Derry went ahead on six minutes when their forwards carried ball forward into midfield and quick ball was snapped up by Andrew Semple who found Richard McCarter outside him. McCarter picked out Beckett 40m out who drew the Malone winger and chipped the ball over his head. Beckett won the race for possession and touched down for an unconverted try in the corner and Derry were in front by 5-0.
Jack Beattie, who was back in the first team for the first time this season, and he made a great break down the right wing on 13 minutes from where he found Beckett outside him with a beautiful pass out the back of his hand but Beckett was bundled into touch with a try on the cards.
Derry went further ahead a minute later when another good drive caught Malone offside and Semple kicked a penalty from 35m for an 8-0 lead.
Derry Head Coach, Terry McMaser, went to the bench on 15 minutes to make a massive statement when he brought a new front row of Ger Collins, Cathal Cregan and Sam Duffy.
The home side however lost Beckett with a leg strain which meant Luke Dalton came on to also make his first team debut on the wing. Logue went to full-back and gave his best display of the season as he thrived on the space and freedom with plenty of opportunities on the ball.
Derry won a solid scrum 35m out after 17 minutes and the platform was set to allow Craig Huey to make a great break forward with Stephen Corr and Kevin McLaughlin in support to produce quick ball. Semple was on the ball quick as a flash and found Logue outside him who ran in for an easy, unconverted try and Derry’s lead was 13-0. The Derry centres, Stuart Simpson and Matthew Kilgore, were a solid combination in both defence and attack all game. Kilgore, another making his first team debut, made a nice break from his own half on the half hour mark which almost resulted in a try.
McLaughlin retired with cramp and captain David Ferguson came on at open-side wing-forward to give a Man of the Match performance. Ferguson’s work rate was phenomenal with a massive tackle count and with great ball carrying ability, he looked a class above the opposition.
However, Malone got themselves back in the game with two penalties from former Derry player, Mark O’Connor, just before half-time to leave the score at the break with Derry leading by 13-6.
Derry were on the scoreboard within three minutes of the restart. The forwards did the ‘donkey work’ as they took play to the Malone 22 and produced quick ball once more. Semple found McCartrer who carried the ball across the Malone defence, drew the cover and picked out Beattie running a terrific line to score by the posts. When Semple converted, Derry were in front by 20-6.
Derry lost Chris Cooper to the sin-bin on 48 minutes as Malone came on the offensive. Two quick tackles from Ferguson stemmed the initial thrust as Derry cleared their lines but O’Connor produced a bit of magic on 60 minutes when he found his winger, Adam Liddell, 40m out with a cross-field kick to run in and touch down for a try wide out. When O’Connor converted, Malone were right back in the game at 20-13.
The game was suddenly in the balance as Malone came on the attack and only good line speed and discipline in the tackle from the Derry defensive line kept them at bay.
Derry weathered the storm and suddenly the fight was gone from the Belfast men. The Judges Road men carried the ball to the Malone 22 and a drive from Cooper and Huey down the right allowed Semple to move play left to McCarter. The out half passed the ball on with Logue collecting and skipping in for an unconverted try in the corner to secure the bonus point and a 25-13 lead.
Derry won a penalty 40m out as the game came to the final minute, McCarter kicked for a line-out inside the Malone 22. Cooper won possession and a forward drive saw that man Ferguson astonished at a free run to the line. Cathal Cregan and Ross Harkin were in support and it was Cregan who dragged Ferguson over the line for a great forwards try. Semple converted as the referee blew the final whistle to secure a morale boosting victory ahead of a pivotal feww weeks in the AIL
City of Derry RFC Ladies also had a high scoring win today Sunday when they also defeated Malone at Judges Road by 54-0. Derry accumulated 10 tries, two of which were converted. The tries came from; Shannon Heapes 3, Sinead McKinney 2, Lizzie Ballantine 2, and one try each from Cheryl Lavery, Aoife Curran and Niamh Wayne.
City of Derry; Ross Harkin, David Ferguson, Rory Squires, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Craig Huey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Stuart Simpson, Matthew Kilgore, Jack Beattie, Ali Beckett, Replacements; Ger Collins, Cathal Cregan, Sam Duffy, Kevin McLaughlin, Luke Dalton.