CITY OF Derry moved menacingly to within three points of AIL Division Three leaders Instonians on Saturday after they survived a scare to record a bonus point 27-20 victory over Dublin side Wanderers at Judges Road on Saturday.
The result moves Derry into second place after the Belfast men eked out a seven point victory away to fellow title contenders Seapoint who now drop into third place, two points behind Bevan Lynch’s team.
Despite the victory, Lynch will be under no illusions that his side must improve after a double sin-binning with 20 minutes to go turned what should have been an afternoon stroll into a close run contest.
Derry strolled through the first half and had the four try bonus point wrapped up with just over thirty minutes gone at 20-3.
At that point, only the margin of the home victory seemed in doubt and when full-back Peter Henderson scored the ‘try of the season’ so far at Judges Road 12 minutes into the second period to make it 27-3, Wanderers looked to have thrown in the towel.
The game took a turn for the worse for Derry just entering the fourth quarter when they had two players sin binned and suddenly anything was possible. Playing 13 to 15 men in the modern game is akin to inviting the opposition to score and Wanderers took their invitation. The momentum shifted completely and 20 minutes and three try’s later there was just seven points between the teams as the game entered injury time.
Derry lost whatever shape they had as Wanderers threw everything forward with game management and direction sadly lacking. Derry were capable of out-muscling the Dublin pack throughout but never put them to the sword when they had the chance. Even when awarded a penalty midway through the first half when Wanderers had a man in the ‘bin’, they neither kicked easy points nor scrummed eight against seven, instead choosing a quick penalty and thus squandered a golden opportunity.
Derry got off to the ideal start when scrum half Andrew Semple broke blind from a strong maul and found Josh Lewis who showed good pace to score an unconverted try in the corner on his first start for Derry.
The home side increased that tally with another try on 13 minutes. Turn over ball allowed Richard McCarter to make the initial break and when he found David Funston with a long pass alarm bells were ringing for the Wanderers defence. Funston passed to Lewis who set up a ruck and quick ball allowed Richard Peoples to score another unconverted try for 10-0.
Wanderers winger Andrew Wallace replied with a 40m penalty but Derry were playing with confidence and ‘Man of the Match’ Funston was at the heart of everything positive.
The home side got their third try on 28 minutes. Winger William McCleery started the move with a searing run into the Wanderers half where he found Peoples who in turn off loaded to Funston. He linked with captain Sam McAuley who in turn passed to the supporting Stephen Corr who touched down for an unconverted try and a 15-3 lead.
It was all Derry and on 33 minutes the bonus point was confirmed. Derry won turnover ball in midfield and Peter Henderson, who was having a fine game, made the initial break. He passed to McCarter who in turn found Peoples to release Lewis for his second try and a 20-3 half time lead.
The try of the game came 12 minutes into the second half when the outstanding Henderson latched onto a pre-planned move in midfield that saw McCarter pick him out with the perfect pass to run 50m and outstrip three defenders to score between the posts with McCarter converting for 27-3.
Derry then had two of their front row forwards sin binned within minutes of one another and suddenly the game changed.
Wanderers threw everything at Derry with their two man advantage, superb commitment to the tackle by Derry holding them at bay for a period but misplaced kicking instead of slowing the game down via ruck and maul allowed Wanderers to score a try through wing forward Eoin Nihill and with Andrew Wallace converting it was 27-10.
Derry got their full complement of players back on the pitch but the tide had turned and it was all Wanderers, Full back Luke Halpin got on the end of a terrific forward drive to score an unconverted try with six minutes remaining as Derry struggled to get any foothold. As the game wore on, more the disarray manifested itself and it was epitomised on the full-time whistle when Wanderers prop Kieran Maloney was gifted a pass to gallop in from over 30m to score an unconverted try in the corner.
The game entered injury time and with Derry increasing the intensity of tackling, they just about held out for a vital bonus point victory.
City of Derry: David Witherow, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Tom Pattton, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, William McCleery. Richard Peoples, David Funston, Josh Lewis, Peter Henderson. Replacements: Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Chris Cooper, Richard Baird, Simon Logue.