Derry fight back to secure bonus point draw in Dublin

City of Derry's Richard Baird who was in superb form against Bective in Dublin at the weekend. (0503PG15)
City of Derry's Richard Baird who was in superb form against Bective in Dublin at the weekend. (0503PG15)
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Bective Rangers 28, City of Derry 28

City of Derry travelled to Donnybrook, Dublin on Saturday to play their fourth ALL Ireland League Division 2A fixture of the season.

Despite almost being architects of their own downfall, Mark Nicholl’s team eventually came away with a four-try bonus point draw. Conditions in Dublin were atrocious with strong winds and torrential rain throughout the game. Derry were still in the bus for the first 10 minutes of the game and would have needed a ghostly experience from a former Bective player, Bram Stoker, to have awakened them from their slumber.

Bective were seven points up inside the first minute after Derry kicked loose defensive ball straight from the kick-off. The ball was collected by Bective’s John Byrne who ghosted in for a try which full-back Barry Lynn converted for 7-0.

Derry came back from the kick-off and when Bective strayed off-side at the breakdown, Richard McCarter kicked the ensuing penalty from 20 metres to bring it back to 7-3.

Derry were caught napping again on seven minutes when Bective winger Rob O’Bierne cut back inside and four missed tackles later he was able to release Byrne again to touch down beneath the posts with Lynn converting for 14-3.

Derry’s play did not improve and bad tackling and poor line-out throws allowed the Dubliners plenty of forward momentum. However, Bective themselves were charged down in midfield as they moved forward on 17 minutes and as everyone stopped, expecting the referee to call a knock-on, Simon Logue was quick as a flash to pick up to loose ball and run in from 50 metres under the posts. With McCarter converting, it brought the score back to 14-10.

Derry were growing in confidence and won good line-out ball against the throw through Chris Cooper to set up a great forward drive. When Bective strayed offside, McCarter kicked the penalty to bring Derry to within a point of the home team at 14-13 with 20 minutes on the clock.

Bective regrouped and increased their lead on the half hour mark when, following good line-out ball and a couple of quick rucks, out-half Cormack Byrne threw a dummy pass which Derry bought and dived in under the posts with Lynn converting for a 21-13 lead.

The Derry scrum was dominant all through with Chris Shields, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy putting in a power packed finish to the opening half. The visitors did have two clear cut chances to score as the half ticked into injury time but could not manage to convert either leaving the interval score 21-13.

Derry started the second half playing against the conditions and found themselves in severe trouble only seven minutes in when a speculative kick by Bective was not fielded, allowing big, back-row Aidan Mulligan to pick up and get in for another try under the posts which Lynn again converted. At 28-13, the home side were in confident mood and looked set for victory.

Derry, to their credit, owned the remaining 30 minutes of the match with Chris Cooper, and Stephen Corr excellent in the second row and Derry’s big powerful back row of Richard Baird, Adam Bratton and Stephen Ferguson coming into their own to dominate the breakdown and carry ball for fun.

Derry got themselves back into the match on 42 minutes when good driving play form Corr and Paul McFeely set up quick ruck ball for Andrew Semple. The scrum-half fed the supporting Baird who beat three men and got in for an unconverted try in the corner to bring it back 28-18.

The pressure was now on Bective as the game reached the midway point of the second half and it was all hands to the pump to try and keep Derry out. Derry’s scrum produced again however on the hour mark when they won ball against the head and Semple fed Logue outside him. The pacy winger went past two men before picking out Josh Lewis who ran in at the corner for another unconverted try which made it 28-23.

Bective had their prop sin-binned on 68 minutes for continually killing the ball and it looked Derry’s game to win with the extra man. However, the conditions continued to deteriorate badly and Derry were finding it difficult to break down a resolute home defence.

Eventually another outstanding scrum from Derry 30m out allowed Ferguson to pick up and find Semple outside him. With the threat of David Funston and Chris Barber outside him Semple’s ‘dummy’ pass caught the Bective rearguard out and he got in for an unconverted try which levelled the game. McCarter did have the chance to put Derry in front from the conversion but the driving rain and gale force winds made kicking night impossible.

Head coach Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair will have been happy to take three points away from what was shaping up to be a disastrous day in Dublin for title chasing Derry. The draw maintains Derry’s unbeaten start in AIL 2A and continues the Judges Road team’s fantastic recent record which has seen them defeated only twice in all competitions since January.

This weekend Derry travel to Queen’s in the Ulster Senior League with the Ulster Senior Cup semi-final the following Saturday at judges Road against Ballynahinch.

CITY OF DERRY - Chris Shields, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Chris Cooper Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Ferguson, Adam Bratton, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, David Funston, Chris Barber, Josh Lewis, Simon Logue, Neil Burns. (Replacements) Sam McAuley, Paul McFeely, Johnny Lyons, Ryan Campbell, Adam Parke.