Greystones 18, City of Derry 11
City of Derry Rugby had to be content with a losing bonus point after suffering only their second AIL defeat of the season on Saturday when they went down 18-11 to Greystones in Wicklow,
The result, coupled with Highfield’s 24-14 victory away to Seapoint, means Derry’s lead at the top is cut to 12 points with the Cork men still having a game in hand over Terry McMaster’s side.
There were only three points between the teams when they met at Judges Road at Halloween, Derry emerging victorious by 20-17 although the home side did cough up a couple of guilt edge chances in the second half. It was a tight affair again at the weekend with Greystones leading 10-6 pts at half time thanks to a try from their best player, No. 8 Bobby Clancy, and a conversion and a penalty from out-half Killian Marmion. Derry’s reply came from two Neil Burns penalties.
The second half was just as close with Derry throwing everything at Greystones who kept their noses in front with a try from winger Jack Keating and another penalty from Marmion to cancel out a try from Simon Logue.
The pitch was perfect at Dr. Hickey Park with the weather dry and a swirling, bitterly cold breeze. Greystones started with all guns blazing and attacked Derry incessantly from the kick-off. The Derry defence were outstanding, as they have been since the start of the New Year and despite all the possession, the Wicklow men knocked on to cough up possession.
Further possession for Greystones caught Derry offside after nine minutes with Marmion kicking the resultant penalty from 20m to put his side 3-0 ahead.
Derry levelled from a penalty of their own on 12 minutes. Burns had initially kicked a lovely touch from which Chris Cooper secured the line-out and David Funston made a great break to catch Greystones offside. Up stepped Burns to level from 20m.
Derry were now having a good spell of possession and Logue made a great break into the heart of the Greystones defence on 20 minutes but the home side killed the ball at the breakdown although Burns hit the post from 20m penalty.
Derry did not let Greystones out of the own 22 and when they strayed offside two minutes later, Burns this time made no mistake to give the Judges Road men a 6-3 lead.
Greystones came back strongly as the game reached the half hour mark and had several goes at crossing the Derry line but superb defence again held them at bay. However the home side won a 5m scrum on 32 minute from which Clancy picked up at No 8 and barged his way over. When Marmion converted from in front of the posts, the Wicklow men were in front by 10-6.
Derry raised their game and setup an attack 30m out but were intercepted by Greystones wing-forward Blake Hill who sprinted the length of the pitch but was nailed by Neil Burns one metre from the Derry line and with help from winger Neil Brown, the Judges Road men survived.
Greystone were still on attack and with Derry under severe pressure, Richard McCarter kicked from his own goal area and hit the post to cannon the ball out of play and give the Wicklow men a 5m scrum. The Derry front row of Rory Squires, David Ferguson and Same Duffy were powerful all afternoon and won a scrum penalty on their own line when they needed it most to relieve the pressure.
Steven Dickey won a penalty at the breakdown on 39 minutes and McCarter kicked for touch. Chris Cooper had a great catch and drive from a 10m line-out but Derry ran out of time as the referee blew the half time whistle with Greystones 10-6 in front.
Derry started the second half in lively mode with David Ferguson in the middle of everything and carrying the ball forward at every opportunity. The game was getting very physical and Derry were struggling to put a number of phases together.
Derry won a powerful scrum penalty pushing the Greystones pack completely off the ball in midfield on 55 minutes and Logue, with a tap and go penalty, made 30m down the left wing and passed to Brown who almost got free with the line in sight. Greystones regained possession with Clancy making a great break in behind the Derry defensive line. It took a great tackle from Ali Beckett to stop him on the Derry ‘22’. Quick ruck ball found Derry light defensively and scrum half Jason Curran swung the ball right to winger Keating who touched down for an unconverted try and a 15-6 lead.
Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster brought on Craig Huey and Cathal Cregan and both showed up well for the remainder of the game as Derry reacted well.
Some good possession on 62 minutes saw the forwards produce a good drive to six metres from the Greystones line. Logue, who was lively all day, was alert as ever and exploited lack of cover on the blind side to skip in for an unconverted try and Derry were back in the game, one score behind at 18-11.
Stuart Simpson was on now and looking to make his mark on the game. Derry were throwing everything at Greystones to get that score that would level the game. Sam Duffy was having his best game of the season, carrying ball at every opportunity and Derry won a penalty on 77 minutes and kicked to the corner five metres from the Greystone line. Not for the first time, Derry lost the throw but with all out commitment remained on attack. Simpson made a searing break as time ebbed away but was stopped inches short to the left of the posts. Derry got the put in to the 5m scrum but with lack of decisiveness and accuracy the chance was gone and with it Derry hopes of levelling the game.
The effort from Derry could not be faulted but Greystones won the breakdown, thus stifling any Derry momentum and the opportunity to build phases.
City of Derry are at home to Dungannon next Saturday with a 2.30pm Kick-off.
City of Derry; Rory Squires, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Stephen Corr, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns, Richard Baird, Simon Logue, Richard McCarter, David Graham, David Funston, Neil Burns, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett, Replacements; Nathan Deeney, Cathal Cregan, Craig Huey, Stuart Simpson, Ian Bratton.