FOLLOWING in the footsteps the club’s most successful ever coach, City of Derry’s new management team of Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair got thier reign off to the perfect start on Saturday with a comprehensive, six try 36-8 Ulster League victory over Ards at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon.
Head Coach Nicholl was pleased with the six try showing but said there was plenty of work to do before the start of their All Ireland League campiagn.
“We have to be pleased with that start to the season,” explained Nicholl, “It was great to get new boys Paul McFeely, Steven Jefferson and David Ferguson some game-time in the front row as well as Ross Scott and Tom Patton also getting time.
“We also used Cathal Cregan and Adam Parke and I would say we have more depth in the squad compared to last season. James Doherty’s second team had a resounding victory over Ards also by 85-12 earlier and there are many players in his team who will be pushing for places in the coming months.
“We are also looking at getting some more of our Under 19s training with the 1st XV squad and pushing for places on the Senior teams. We look forward to the challenges ahead over the next month in the build up to the All Ireland League at the end of September.”
The home side started with real intent but ten minutes of constant attacking play went by without troubling the scoreboard as unforced errors and bad decision-making from both sides led to frustration. This manifested itself in plenty of niggle throughout the game which hindered the flow and did not suit Derry as their backline where unable to get any continuity going.
The first score did not come until 20 minutes into the game, following good work from ‘Man of the Match’ Adam Bratton who was playing his first game at wing-forward. Bratton won a penalty for Derry 10m out and a quick play of the ball from the ever alert Andrew Semple found the marauding Philip Brady in support. Brady passed to Chris Shields allowing the prop forward crashed over for a try between the posts with Richard McCarter converting for a 7-0. It was not all good though as Derry unfortunately lost full-back Chris Barber to injury and was replaced by Peter Henderson,
Ards got themselves back in the game on 32 minutes when out-half Mark Banford kicked a penalty from 40m having hit the post from the same distance two minutes earlier.
The Derry scrum was solid all through with Shields, David Ferguson and Steven Jefferson forming a solid front row supported by second rowers Philip Brady and Brian Prue. The scrum was the catalyst for Derry’s next score on 35 minutes, a quick strike from Ferguson 40 out saw Semple finding McCarter who worked a ‘miss-move’ in the centre with David Funston as the decoy and Ryan Campbell showed power and pace to fend off three tackles and score by the posts with McCarter again converting for 14-3.
The Derry back row of Ross Scott, Adam Bratton and Richard Baird were beginning to get on top of their opposite numbers and Derry scored again before half time when they combined to release Baird on a break from midfield. Simon Logue continued the move and, with Andrew Semple in support, the gap appeared to allow the scrum half to touch down for an unconverted try and a 19-3 lead at the break despite Semple being harshly sin-binned on the stroke of half time.
The second half was 10 minutes old when constant Derry pressure produced a series of strong scrums 10m from the Ards line. Three collapsed scrums later following superb control at No. 8 by Baird and the referee awarded a penalty try for Derry, McCarter converted and Derry’s lead was 26-3 with the bonus point secured.
Ards upped their game and on 55 minutes good play by Kyle Agnew and Banford released full back Jonny Beggs who put winger Neil Beggs in for an unconverted try to reduce the arrears to 26-8.
However, Derry were back on the scoreboard on the hour mark when winger William McCleery produced a terrific break to make an opening for Henderson to score a trademark try and increase his team’s lead to 31-8. Derry rapped up their scoring on the stroke of full time when Henderson snapped up loose ball to allow his captain, David Funston, to run in to the corner.
City of Derry - Chris Shields, David Ferguson, Steven Jefferson, Philip Brady, Brian Prue, Adam Bratton, Ross Scott, Richard Baird, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, David Funston, Ryan Campbell, William McCleery, Chris Barber, Replacements: Paul McFeely, Cathal Cregan, Tom Patton, Adam Parke. Peter Henderson
The George Tees Cup was won by Coleraine on Saturday at Judges Road when they defeated Omagh by 15 pts. to 5 pts. in the final. Ballymoney defeated Creggs from Co. Roscommon in the Plate Final.
Notice - City of Derry’s Youth Training starts this Wednesday at 7.00 pm at Judges Road with Bus pick-ups starting next week.