Derry book Ulster Cup final spot

CITY of Derry Ladies will meet Carrick in the Rosie Stewart Ulster Cup Final on Sunday after a fantastic four-try defeat of Belfast Harlequins 24-7 in a hard fought semi-final at the weekend.

Fresh from their quarter-final victory over holders and pre-tournament favourites, Cooke, Derry were indebted to a superb display from their pack after what turned out to be a very physical encounter, played at a high tempo.

The game ebbed and flowed for the first 10 minutes until Derry were awarded a penalty. At the ensuing line-out Glenda Mellon took clean ball from Stacey-Lea Kennedy - returning from Irish international duty - and the Derry girls drove over the line, leaving the touch-down a mere formality for captain Diane Nixon.

Harlequins were obviously keen to reverse their 27-12 Judges Road league defeat and some good play from their full-back Ashleigh Baxter and centre Nikki Caughey, alongside the outstanding South African International fly-half, Zenay Jordaan, was kept the visitors on their toes. The Quins girls had also painted their faces in club colours to add to what was a great advertisement for the Ladies game occasion.

However, Derry were not to be intimidated and determined to book themselves a spot in the final. After Andrea Shepherd followed up Rachel Lennox’s kick to pressurise her opposite number, it was Julie Simpson who picked up the loose ball and ran in her first try for City of Derry with Lennox converting for a 12-0 half-time lead.

The second half began with a piece of magic from the Quins fly-half Jordaan, who chipped ahead before gathering her own kick to score to the delight of the home fans. The try was converted by Caughey.

However, this score only proved only to galvanise Derry and it was their own South African International flanker, Mandisa Williams, who scored after some excellent pressure from the Derry forwards. Lennox converted to leave the score 19-7 in Derry’s favour and the visitors were now well in control.

Harlequins remained dangerous though and after a period of pressure, managed to win two successive penalties but could not take advantage of either and Derry’s lead stayed intact.

Derry were unlucky too in that at least three try-scoring opportunities went begging but eventually the impressive Williams picked and drove over the line to leave the final score 24-7.

So the dream continues for the Derry girls who have had to come through the toughest possible draw in the competition this year.