CITY OF Derry’s early season difficulties in the line-out came back to haunt them on Saturday as old foes Seapoint took full advantage of a lacklustre home display to inflict a fourth AIL 2A defeat in six games on the Judges Road men.
Michael Wilson was at Judges Road
Photographs: Phil Gamble
After successive promotion campaigns alongside each other, the clubs have become the best of enemies with the Dubliners holding something of a hoodoo over Bevan Lynch’s team since Derry’s last victory, three years ago in the Irish Junior Cup.
Derry did show signs of ending that run in what were atrocious conditions as they fought back from a 16-10 interval deficit to lead 17-16 within three minutes of having the elements in their favour. However a failure to adequately compete at set-plays and in the breakdown continually handed the initiative back to Seapoint for whom out-half Brian Keegan dictated the afternoon’s action.
Derry’s problems were best summed up with Seapoint’s crucial second try on 55 minutes which took them into a 23-17 lead. Substitute Mark Walker was penalised for going over the top which allowed Keegan to place a line-out 20m from the Derry line. A routine line-out and rolling maul later, flanker Hugh Kellegher was touching down with minimal effort.
When Walker was sin-binned only three minutes later for a repeat offence, Derry had a mountain to climb and they never looked like scaling it.
Derry showed enough in their three tries to suggest they had it in them to unlock Seapoint but a curious refusal to exploit the elements after the break and a constantly faltering line-out made it an easier afternoon than Seapoint should have been afforded as forwards coach Mark Nicholl admitted afterwards.
“We were very disappointed in the display, particularly in the forwards,” claimed Nicholl.
“We had asked them to front up as they did last week but we never turned up in the second half. We had a gameplan but we didn’t play it and that’s the reason we lost.
“We have talked the last three or four weeks about rucking past the ball and that was one of the features we didn’t do which was why we lost a lot of ball at the breakdown and then we were under pressure. We threw ball away we would normally keep and presented Seapoint with too much easy possession.
“Our line-outs were very, very poor which was another big disappointment. It is something we have worked hard on for the last month but we are still struggling. There are various reasons for it but we will have to look at it in training again this week.
“When it got to 17-16 we thought ’game on’, this is where we want to be but we went off the game plan and started playing individual rugby. We didn’t win the collisions and let them in again. We didn’t win enough balls at the breakdown or in the line-outs and those are our two key areas of disappointment.”
It is an alarming statistic that Derry won only one of their first five line-outs but there was no sign of the problems inside the first five minutes as Derry engineered a 5-3 lead. Keegan had already illustrated his prowess from a dead ball inside the first 60 seconds to get Seapoint off and running but within four minutes Derry showed the sort of form Nicholl and head coach Bevan Lynch would have been wanting.
From a Seapoint scrum on halfway, Derry produced a superb push to win possession with Stephen Ferguson making the initial break. When he was stopped the ball was quickly switched left where Ryan Campbell ran in at the corner.
Within five minutes Keegan’s second penalty, again from inside the Derry ‘22, had the visitors in front but Derry responded thanks to a superb individual break from Simon Logue. A long Seapoint kick into the Derry half was gathered by the Derry winger who jinxed his way past four backs before finding the supporting Richard Baird. Baird in turn made ground and off-loaded to Richard McCarter who dummied to throw wide before ducking inside for a superb team try which again went unconverted.
Straight from the kick-off however the problems resurfaced as, for the third time in the game, Derry conceded a needless penalty inside their own ‘22 and Keegan brought his side to within a point at 10-9.
On 26 minutes the Leinster men had the lead and from a Derry viewpoint it was completely avoidable. With Derry in possession, McCarter’s kick went straight into touch, not helped by the swirling breeze. From the resulting line-out, Seapoint No. 8 Johnny Walsh fed scrum-half Vincent Browne who ducked through the hole before off-loading to prop Brian Lyons who crashed over. Despite Keegan’s conversion, Derry were well in the game at 16-10 with the advantage of the elements to come.
Poor Second Half
Within three minutes of the restart Derry seemed to have finally found their rhythm with a superb try which started inside their own ‘22. With a kick looking the best option, Logue found McCarter who produced a brilliant 50m run to take play inside the Seapoint half where Josh Lewis took up the charge. The winger was eventually stopped but the supporting Andrew Semple showed excellent quick thinking to spot Seapoint out of position and superbly chip forward for McCarter to finish a move he started at the opposite end of the pitch. With the out-half also converting it look good for Derry at 17-16.
However that was as good as it got despite Lynch introducing the experience of Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy and Walker from the bench. Seapoint’s second try turned the momentum in their favour, Keegan adding an excellent penalty on the hour mark to make it 26-17.
Derry did respond through a McCarter penalty and at 26-20, the home supporters held their breath for a late charge. It never materialised and Keegan’s second excellent drop-goal merely confirmed Seapoint’s superiority.
Despite the defeat, Nicholl was adamant Derry can challenge at the top of the table.
“I think we won two line-outs all day. I think four of them were through non-lifting, two were through throws, two Seapoint got, so you know, that’s an area which is a concern. We struggled at the start of the season and got it on track but have gone backwards so I think the confidence has gone and it’s up to me to build that up again.
“There is still the aspirations to finish in the top two. We think we are good enough and we know if we stick to the game plan and play the way we know we can play, certainly, we are a top two side but we haven’t done that so the players will have to take some responsibility for not sticking to the game plan. We played 10 minutes of rugby against Seapoint with the game plan and in that time scored three tries.
“The thing about the boys is they will bounce back as we saw when we went to Old Wesley after the defeat in Cork and I have no doubts the boys will return home happy from Dublin next week. We will try to right the wrongs this week in training. The boys let themselves down today but we know we will get a positive reaction from them,” he added.
City of Derry Team: Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Gareth Beattie, Bob McKillop, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Josh Lewis, Adam Parke, David Funston, Ryan Campbell. (Replacements) Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Mark Walker, Richard Peoples, Adam Bratton.