Derry pay penalty as title hopes slip away

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CITY OF Derry’s dismal recent away record may have cost them the AIL Division Three title after Saturday’s shock derby defeat to Rainey Old Boys saw them slip to third in the table.

Bevan Lynch’s side now trail leaders Instonians by six points and second placed Seapoint by two after what was a third successive away defeat which takes the destination of the league out of their hands.

Derry remain on course for automatic promotion but the manner in which the points were conceded in Magherafelt will have been what concerns Lynch and his backroom staff the most

Derry strolled through the first half in control of the game and looked comfortable. They led 14-3 against the breeze with just three minutes to go to half time but suddenly the game turned on its head. Rainey attacked down the right and knocked-on 35m from the Derry line but the referee waved advantage for Derry who played, running the ball along their backline inside their own 22m before knocking on themselves. The referee had just shouted advantage over and Derry then infringed at the ruck allowing former Judges Road favourite Mark O’Connor to score from the penalty and three minutes later he repeated the dose.

Suddenly the half-time score was 14-9 and Rainey were back in the game. The momentum was now with the home 15 and Derry struggled at every facet of the game. The Rainey back row of David Dawson, Paul Heaney and Ricky McCrea were outstanding, winning all the ball at the breakdown, scavenging at the line-out and turning over possession at will. The front row of Nathan Amos, Sam Sufferin and Neil O’Kane became more influential as the game wore on and Derry could never get their patterns of play in vogue throughout a disappointing second half.

The game had started well for Derry, Richard Peoples converting a penalty after a scrum infringement on five minutes. Derry then won the kick-off and Andrew Semple released full-back Peter Henderson on a searing run that opened the Rainey defence and with a deft pass inside to Simon Logue, the try was scored, Peoples missed the conversion but Derry lead by 8-0.

Mark O’Connor reduced the deficit with a penalty on 12 minutes but Derry were in the ascendency and Peoples added two further penalties on 18 and 33 minutes to give Derry a healthy 14-3 lead as half-time approached.

Derry then made the mistake of playing the Rainey knock-on and O’Connor punished his former team mates twice to leave it 14-9 for Derry.

Missed Opportunity

Derry missed an early opportunity of a penalty within three minutes of the second half starting but the Rainey pack were beginning to play some continuity rugby and with their outstanding scrum-half Peter Sciascia becoming more influential, centres Rodney Paul and ‘Man of the Match’ John McMahon were making impressive inroads into the heart of the Derry defence.

The deciding score of the game came on 50 minutes when the Rainey pack produced a series of drives and excellent handling to overrun the Derry resistance and allow impressive number eight Ricky McCrea to score what could be a season defining unconverted try to make it 14-14.

Derry tried everything to get themselves ahead again but were thwarted by lack of control. With turnovers and impatience in crucial attacking positions, Rainey eventually got out of their half on 70 minutes and when Derry infringed, O’Connor pounced to slot over a great penalty from 35m to give Rainey the lead for the first time.

Derry came back strong and Richard McCarter, who had replaced Peoples, punished a Rainey breakdown infringement with five minutes left to level the scores at 17-17.

The game could now go either way but Rainey once again got stuck into the Derry forwards and disrupted their momentum at every opportunity and, sticking to their game-plan, they showed fortune favours the brave by not wilting when under the cosh in the first half.

The home side got their reward for an outstanding second half when great interplay between backs and forwards, initiated by Sciascia, allowed their hooker Sam Sufferin to score the match winning try to cap an impressive team display and provide Rainey a famous victory.

City of Derry: David Witherow, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Tom Pattton, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, William McCleery. David Funston, Simon Logue, Peter Henderson. Replacements: Stephen Duffy, Chris Cooper, Richard Baird, Richard McCarter, Josh Lewis.