SENIOR CUP RUGBY: City of Derry power past Armagh into last eight

City of Derry coach Terry McMaster
City of Derry coach Terry McMaster

CITY OF DERRY 40 ARMAGH 18

Terry McMaster’s new look City of Derry progressed to the First Trust Senior Cup quarter-finals with an impressive six try victory over fellow AIL Division 2B side Armagh on Saturday.

Alex McCloy’s visitors were forced to play second fiddle to Derry for most of a match which was lit up by a scintillating display from new full-back Ali Beckett who marked his competitive home début with two first half tries in two minutes to put Derry in the driving seat.

McMaster had lost the services of winger Simon Logue on Thursday night and was forced to use reserve hooker Steven Duffy on the wing but he never looked out of place as Derry enjoyed the early territorial gains.

Beckett’s afternoon began with a timely tackle on Armagh’s Zach Kneebone as he threatened to go clear on a race Armagh break and it was no surprise when the home side grabbed the game’s opening try 11 minutes in. With Derry moving forward menacingly, centre Stuart Simpson choose the perfect moment to join at pace with a break that took him beyond the Armagh defensive line. Simpson’s burst was eventually stopped but Derry’s captain for the day, John Burns, was in support and showed decent pace to take him away from the covering defender and score close to the post. With Neil Burns converting, the home side were good value for their seven point lead.

Armagh lost second row Conleth McGilligan to a yellow card on 20 minutes but Burns was unable to extend the home lead from the subsequent penalty although Derry really should have had a second try on 60 minutes later when, with a man over, Beckett’s final pass wide was adjudged to have been forward.

If it was a chance lost Derry didn’t have to wait long for a second score or a third for that matter. With 30 minutes on the clock, play was switched to the Derry right where Neil Brown made ground and drew the Armagh cover before switching inside to the supporting Beckett who ran in to score with Burns converting.

Two minutes later, Becket was back on the scoreboard when he took advantage of another excellent overlap to cross the line with Burns again adding the extras for 19-0.

A Johnny Pollock penalty three minutes before the interval finally got the visitors on the scoreboard but they had made little impression in a one side half.

Armagh improved second half but not before Derry made the game safe as McMaster’s scored a fourth try with 90 seconds of the restart. With Derry pressing from the kick-off, scrum-half Andrew Semple switched play left to David Graham who produced a lovely kick and chase to increase the home lead to 26-3 after another Burns conversion.

Pollock replied with an Armagh penalty but the home side looked capable of picking holes in the Armagh defence every time the pushed forward. The fifth try of the afternoon arrived on 58 minutes following superb work from Semple inside his own ‘22. The Derry scrum half dummied to kick clear before darting inside on a break that, along with the supporting Neil Brown, took Derry deep into the Armagh half. Armagh looked to have stemmed the tide when they won a scrum but Derry turned over possession and switched play right from where Brown sold two delightful dummies and danced over the line for 33-6.

Late consolation tries from Robbie and Neil Faloon were as much down to Derry easing off as any incisive play from the visitors and it was fitting the last say went to the home team as John Burns was forced over for his second of the game.

It was an impressive start from Derry ahead of next week’s AIL opener at Barnhall for which they can expect to be significantly stronger while McCloy and consultant coach, Brian McLaughlin has work to do before his side entertain Ulster rivals Dungannon at the Palace Grounds

City of Derry: Chris Shields. Cathal Cregan, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, David Houston, Stephen Dickey, John Burns, Craig Huey, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Steven Duffy, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Alistair Beckett. (Replacements) Graham Murphy, Bob McKillop, Corey Logan, Richard McCarter.

Armagh: Simon Carlisle, Zach Kneebone, Grant Hutchinson, Willie Martin, Conleth McGilligan, James Hannah, Peter Elliott, Neil Faloon, Mattie Wright, Johnny Pollock, Luke Crozier, John Faloon, Michael Thompson, Robbie Faloon, Matthew McSorley. (Replacements) Jack Sleatoer, Andrew Morton, James Morton, Harry Doyle, Stephen Morton.