CITY OF Derry took a massive step toward ALL Ireland League Division Two thanks to a superb bonus point victory over Ulster rivals and title hopefuls, Instonians, at Judges Road on Saturday.
MICHAEL WILSON was at Judges Road
With Seapoint and Greystones also securing expected victories, the four-try win moves Bevan Lynch’s team ten points clear of fifth placed Banbridge who did not play and just a point behind Inst. A trip to Highfield is next before the season finale at home to Naas on April 16th and Derry now hold their destiny in their own hands.
The seven point victory was yet another example - as if the home fans needed it - of the character of the side Lynch has developed. Leading 19-3 at the break after some fantastic running rugby in the opening half, Derry almost paid the price for David Funston’s yellow card as the visitors clawed back 13 points at the outset of the second period with the influential centre still in the bin.
With Funston’s reintroduction Derry regrouped as Tom Patton grabbed his side’s crucial fourth try to put daylight between the team and it was needed. Through almost nine minutes of injury time, Instonians laid siege to the Derry line knowing their title aspirations depended on them crossing. It wasn’t to be though as every man in a green shirt put his body on the line to secure a fantastic victory.
The only down side for Derry was the loss of Simon Logue who had scored a brilliant individual opening try before suffering two cracked ribs in the second half meaning he will miss the final two games of the season.
“That win puts us ten ahead of Banbridge so they know they have not only to win but also secure bonus points which is going to be difficult as they have Seapoint, Highfield and Naas,” explained Lynch.
“At the start of the second half we just had to try and get our hands back on the ball and play it tight. A lot of third division teams play within 15 or 20m either side of the set-piece and Instonians were very good in the area but out wide, that’s where we needed to get the ball.
“This is a young squad so when Inst. came out as they did second half they started to doubt what was happening and we’ve been in a few of those games this year. Those ten minutes showed our naivety. That’s when we needed to play ugly, keep it tight and just suck up the minutes, going from scrum to scrum. That’s where your Bob McKillops are sorely missed because they know exactly what should be done but fair play to the boys, they got it right when it counted and deserved the win. I would have been aggrieved had Instonians got anything because they didn’t really offer a lot.”
Instonians were quick out of the blocks and forced Derry back but the home’s ability to destroy the opposition out wide was highlighted as early as the third minute. An initial break from Peter Henderson and William McCleery was stopped inside the visitors 22 but their kick for touch was collected by Andrew Semple on half-way. The scrum-half quickly switched play left to Logue whose exquisite chip and collect left Instonians staring at space as the winger darted between defenders for a superb solo try which Peoples converted.
Ten minutes later and Funston had repeated the dose after Derry brought play inside the Inst. 22. Sam McAuley’s drive allowed Richard McCarter the space to find Funston who dived inside the defence for 12-0.
Derry were tearing Instonians to shreds in the wide areas and claimed their third try on 26 minutes when Patton brilliantly charged down Scott Browne’s attempted clearance from inside his own 22 to score. Peoples again converted for 19-0.
The game was going away from the visitors who sole first half score came on the half hour courtesy of a Browne penalty. However, right on the stroke of half-time, Funston’s enthusiasm got the better of him with a high tackle on Inst dangerman Josh Devitt, meaning the centre would start the second half in the bin.
That looked to be a costly mistake as Browne, with a converted try and two penalties, brought his side within touching distance at 19-16 by the 50th minute.
With the game in the balance, both sides sought an opening and it was Richard McCarter who provided it for Derry when he picked up possession close to the touchline, broke three tackles and off-loaded to the supporting Patton who scored. Back came Inst through back row Stephen Douglas and at 24-23 it was anyone’s game.
However, just when Derry needed a stroke of luck it arrived via Instonians indiscipline. McCarter’s attempted chip inside the visitors 22 looked the wrong option but when it fortuitously broke back it caught the visitors off-side leaving Peoples with the easiest of penalties. With six minutes remaining Peoples repeated the trick, this time from 45m, and Derry had enough breathing space to hold on, Just.
David Witherow, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Chris Cooper, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, William McCleery, Richard Peoples, David Funston, Simon Logue, Peter Henderson.
Subs: Stephen Ferguson for R Baird, 51mins; Philip Brady for C Cooper, 60mins; Stephen Sims for S Logue, 75mins; Stephen Duffy for S McAuley, 78mins.