CITY of Derry got their All Ireland Division 2A campaign off and running with a superb, six-try victory over ‘bogey’ side Seapoint in Kilbogget Park on Saturday afternoon.
Last week’s shock home defeat to U.C.C. (or rather the one sided nature of it) had raised a number of questions but - as they have so many times in the past - the Judges Road men responded in perfect fashion, scoring two spectacular tries in the last ten minutes to secure victory.
Conditions were perfect and Derry started with plenty aggression but it was Seapoint who were first on the scoreboard when out-half Peter Lydon slotted over an early penalty. However, Derry were right back on attack from the kick-off when Tom Patton fielded an excellent ball on the run to set-up great field position. When Seapoint infringed, Richard McCarter hit the post from a penalty in front of posts.
It was all Derry pressure but last week’s result appeared to have hit confidence. With the back line static and Seapoint showing speed in defence to target captain, David Funston, it was difficult for Derry to break home lines. Seapoint broke Derry’s possession stranglehold on 12 minutes but three outstanding tackles in succession from Simon Logue on his own 22m line thwarted their progress. Logue was playing like a man inspired and his trademark jinking runs were dragging two and three Seapoint players into the tackle as they fought to keep him at bay.
Derry finally stamped their authority on the game with a score 25 minutes in. Seapoint had wing-forward Patrick Crown sin-binned and from the resulting penalty McCarter kicked for touch. Chris Cooper - who had a superb game - won clean ball and the pack drove forward, resulting in a five metre scrum from which the front row of Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan and Gareth Beattie produced to give No 8 Davy Houston an unconverted push over try and Derry led 5-3.
Things got even better six minutes later when, following great work from Brian Prue, Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton, Derry won a scrum in midfield from which Houston picked and made a 30m break. When he was stopped, Semple linked to his left with McCarter who switched play back right to connect with Bratton who had made a brilliant supporting run and powered in for a try which McCarter converted for 12-3.
Seapoint got themselves back into the game with a penalty from Lydon three minutes from the break but more worryingly for Derry was the loss of Tom Patton who was forced off with a neck injury. Things did not go much better for his replacement, Paul McFeely, who was on the pitch only five minutes before he too was forced off, this time with a leg injury.
Seapoint were now in control, their dangerous centre Gary Foley getting in for a try which was converted by Lydon and left the half time score 12-11 in the visitors favour.
to second half
Derry started the second half with a bang as three minutes in Andrew Semple charged down a Seapoint clearance 30m out from their posts and off-loaded to Adam Bratton who sprinted in for an unconverted try and a 17-11 lead.
Seapoint turned possession over two minutes later on half way but critically spilled the ball. The alert Logue didn’t require a second invitation to pickup and sprint away from the chasing Seapoint defence to touch down between the posts. With McCarter converting, Derry lead by 24-11.
Derry had Sam McAuley on in the back row along with Stephen Jefferson at prop and David Graham in the backs. Chris Barber was having a fine game at full-back on his return from injury, his tackling was ferocious and his elusive strong running was always dangerous. Seapoint reduced the arrears with a well worked team try finished by full-back Chris O’Brien and converted by Lydon on 53 minutes to reduce Derry’s lead to 24-18. Derry showed great heart and fight as they took the game to Seapoint and fine play from Prue, Jefferson and McAuley deserved a try on the hour mark but they were harshly penalised for holding on with the line at their mercy.
Seapoint refused to buckle and took the lead on 63 minutes when, from a 22m drop out, winger Conor Byrne linked with Foley to go the length of the pitch to score. With Lydon converting Seapoint lead 25-24 and Derry were facing a season defining last 15 minutes.
But the visitors showed real character to come back and completely dominate. Funston led from the front as he smashed tacklers out of his way on 73 minutes to create ‘go forward’ ball which was quickly moved by Semple to Richard Peoples. Peoples released Ryan Campbell who created his own space with a show of the ball and a dummy to sprint in for a top class try and Derry were back in the lead at 29-25.
Derry’ fitness was now showing as they dominated all phases of the game. They turned over possession on their own 22m line on 77 minutes and McCarter moved the ball quickly to Barber who found Josh Lewis on the wing to make a great break to the half way line where he linked with Barber who chipped the remaining two cover players to collect and power for a try by the posts which crowned a ‘Man of the Match’ performance. With Peoples converting Derry had sealed a memorable victory.
Members of Seapoint Rugby Club were gracious in defeat after the game and their President, along with Brian Murdock, John Power and a number of club members sent their best wishes to Mark McFeely, as do all Members of City of Derry Rugby Club.
City of Derry; Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Gareth Beattie, Chris Cooper, Brian Prue, Adam Bratton, Tom Patton, David Houston, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Ryan Campbell, David Funston, Josh Lewis, Chris Barber. Replacements; Sam McAuley, Paul McFeely, Steven Jefferson, Richard Peoples, David Graham.