ON THE eve of his 21st birthday, two-try Chris Barber proved the star as City of Derry continued their recent revival with a comprehensive five-try demolition job of early season league leaders Banbridge in Saturday’s AIL Division 2A clash at Judges Road.
But if Barber was the executioner, Richard McCarter was the architect as Mark Nicholl’s men bounced back from 10-0 to put the result and the bonus point to bed in two scintillating 20 minute spells either side of half-time. Derry scored 35 unanswered to move into sixth in the table, now just one point fourth placed Banbridge with just five games remaining.
The early exchanges saw a very physical and focused Banbridge on top at the breakdown and it took sterling Derry defence, especially from captain David Houston, Ryan Campbell, William McCleery and Richard Baird to keep the visitors at bay.
The Banbridge pressure finally told on 11 minutes when Derry tried to run the ball out of their half. Bann out-half Adam Doherty intercepted a pass from his opposite number McCarter to sprint in from 50m and touch down for an unconverted try. The setback did not faze McCarter though who was back to his best throughout, varying his team’s running and kicking game on his way to a personal tally of 20 points.
The visitors struck again after 20minutes when Derry were turned over on the half-way and quick movement by the Banbridge saw their big second row and captain Simon McKinstry make ground and off-load to his No. 8 Dale Carson who drove in to touch down for a 10-0 lead.
Derry never wavered though and were now getting some decent possession with Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson and Sam Duffy domination at scrum time. The early Banbridge enthusiasm and dominance was beginning to subside as the Derry back row of Stephen Corr, Tom Patton and Baird began winning the battle of the breakdown.
The momentum of the game had changed in Derry’s favour and this was confirmed on 26 minutes when Barber gained possession from scrum-half Jack Caithness just inside the Banbridge half. The young centre chipped the defence from 35m out, collected the ball and touched down for a try which McCarter converted Banbridge for 10-7.
Derry’s superiority was confirmed by some great attacking rugby from McCleery and Simon Logue which was rewarded with two penalties from the boot of McCarter to give the home team a 13-10 interval lead.
Banbridge missed an early penalty with two minutes into before Derry coaches Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair sent to the bench for the ‘enforcers’. Sam McAuley, David Witherow and Paul McFeely came into the front row with Bob McKillop to the second row. Peter Henderson slipped on almost unnoticed behind the four heavyweights but the impact was immediate as further pressure allowed McCarter to kick his third penalty on 45minutes.
McCarter’s kicking from hand and ground was exceptional as he nursed his team forward with some long kicking to touch. Derry were well on top now with Funston having a great game and Baird capitalised on his captain’s good play on 50 minutes when he made a break inside the Banbridge half. When Baird passed to Barber the writing was again on the wall as he chipped ahead once more, gathered and touched down for a terrific try which McCarter converted for 23-10.
When Banbridge lost their captain McKinstry to the bin on the hour mark, Derry went for the jugular and put the game to bed within five minutes. First, when a penalty was reversed, McCarter kicked for touch 20m out. Chris Cooper won possession and when the ball was moved along the backline McCarter dummied and sidestepped the defence to stroll in for a classic try which McCarter converted himself for 30-10. The influential Funston got in for an unconverted try to secure the bonus point two minutes later and it was game over as Derry led 35-10.
City of Derry seemed to relax at this stage and coughed up two late tries which allowed Banbridge a four try bonus point. The Bann got in for the first of those on 73 minutes when, from a five metre line out, hooker Jonny Weir took a quick throw to McKinstry at the front of the line who returned the ball to Weir and he went in untouched to reduce the arrears to 35-15.
Banbridge were getting more possession as the game entered the closing minutes and following good control and a number of pick and drives, Weir touched down for a try which Adam Doherty converted to leave the final score 35-22.
City of Derry 2nd XV also defeated Banbridge at home on Saturday by 16-12 which was great preparation for their Towns Cup Quarter-Final fixture at home next Saturday against Dungannon.
City of Derry - Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Chris Cooper, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Jack Caithness, Richard McCarter, William McCleery, David Funston, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue. Replacements; Sam McAuley, David Witherow, Paul McFeely, Bob McKillop, Peter Henderson.