City of Derry continued from where they left off against Instonians when they scored a deserved victory over Ulster Senior League victory over Malone at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon.
The win was founded on a superb defensive display as Bevan Lynch’s team outscored their Belfast rivals by 3-1, conceding only seven points in the process. This result, and the manner in which it was achieved, will have laid down a marker for when the sides meet in All Ireland League Division 2A at Judges Road at the end of March.
The conditions were good considering the amount of rain that fell on the playing surface and Judges Road grounds expert Malcolm Burns and convener Robert Thompson must be congratulated for producing pitches which were playable last weekend when others in Ulster were not.
Derry started in whirlwind fashion as the pack produced a series of quick ruck ball with Bob McKillop, Stephen Ferguson, Richard Baird, Chris McDonald and captain Stephen Corr producing a combination of strong drives that had Malone on the back foot.
Andrew Semple found out-half Richard Peoples who released Adam Bratton to show power and pace to crash in for Derry’s first try which Peoples converted for a 7-0 lead with little over two minutes gone.
Peoples was back on the scoreboard five minutes later when good play from Gareth Beattie, Cathal Cregan and Chris Shields forced a Malone infringement from a penalty 25m out in front of the post Peoples made it 10-0.
Malone came back strong and excellent play from Lee Barlow, Peter Rodgers and captain Glen Moore brought play inside the Derry ‘22. The Judges Road defence stood strong and the combination of Chris McDonald, Corr and Baird manufactured a turnover which Derry clinically capitalised on. Derry moved the ball quickly out of their own half and when Baird made the decisive line break, David Funston was in support to inject the necessary pace and feed Simon Logue to sprint in from 30m for a great try and with Peoples converting Derry were 17-0 in front with the game only 12 minutes old.
The Derry scrum was on top throughout and with props Gareth ‘Shiner’ Beattie dominating at tight-head and Shields doing the same at loose head along with hooker Cathal Cregan, they made sure their back row could operate with freedom.
However, the Derry scrum was the architect of its own downfall on 17 minutes when they destroyed the Malone pack with a powerful drive 5m from their own posts. Unfortunately the scrum wheeled taking out the Derry back row defence which allowed Malone No. 8, Neil Alcorn, to pickup to run in for an easy try which full back Shandon Scott converted to reduce Derry’s lead to 17-7.
Derry continued to enjoy territorial advantage with good strong combination play between backs and forwards. Chris Barbour was showing what an outstanding talent he is at full back where his positional play, kicking and running were exceptional. Adam Bratton gave a ‘Man of the Match’ performance with incisive, strong running and tackling and with William McCleery returning to the wing, Derry always posed a serious threat.
Chris McDonald, starting for the first time at home for the 1st XV, had a superb game and he along with McKillop and Baird were responsible for catching Malone offside on the stroke of half time which allowed Peoples to convert the resulting penalty and give Derry a 20-7 interval lead, Malone’s cause not being helped when hooker Daryl Maxwell was sent to the bin.
The second half was evenly contested with most of the play being acted out between the two 22m lines. Both sides struggled to come to grips with the game and unforced errors were the order of the day.
The Derry defence produced a number of good turnovers when Malone were hoping to get themselves back into the game, the starring role going to McDonald who turned over ball single-handedly on a number of occasions when required to keep the opposition at bay.
Derry finally made the breakthrough to seal victory on 55 minutes when McKillop, Corr, Baird and McDonald gave their backs quick ball in midfield. Semple found Funston who once again powered forward and when he connected with the ‘Campsie Steamroller’ Stephen Ferguson 25m out, there was only going to be one result. Ferguson, with a powerful run, pushed tacklers out of his way or ran over them on his surge to the line to score a memorable unconverted try to leave the score 25-7 for Derry.
Derry saw out the remainder of the game with little difficulty and despite Richard Baird being sin-binned on 70 minutes there was little for Derry coaches Bevan Lynch and Mark Nicholl to worry about as they unloaded their bench.
This victory consolidates Derry’s position in third place in the Ulster Senior League behind Dungannon and Belfast Harlequins. Their next Ulster League game is against Ballymena at home on New Year’s Eve when they will be hoping to eradicate the memory of their narrow defeat in the Ulster Cup Semi-Final at the end of last month to the ‘Braid’ men.
City of Derry: Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Gareth Beattie, Bob McKillop, Stephen Ferguson, Stephen Corr, Chris McDonald, Richard Baird, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, William McCleery, David Funston, Adam Bratton, Simon Logue, Chris Barbour Replacements: Sam Duffy, Stephen Duffy, Brian Prue, Ian Vance, Rudi Moore.