CITY of Derry’s poor recent run continued in Tipperary on Saturday as the were comprehensively outplayed by hosts Cashel who now move above the Judges Road men into eighth in the AIL 2A table.
Head Coach Mark Nicholl had hoped for a reaction from his players following the home defeat against Galwegians the previous week but Derry found the home side held similar aspirations after their own heavy defeat at Old Wesley and it was Cashel who bounced back. In truth, it was always going to be tough for the visitors with very few teams leaving Spafield victorious in the last five years.
The weather was perfect for rugby on Saturday and both teams had attacking opportunities in the early exchanges. Derry’s Achilles heel of conceding penalties haunted them once again with Cashel full-back and former Shannon player Pat O’Connor punishing them after 13 minutes when he converted from 25m for a 3-0 lead after Derry gave away their fifth penalty.
Derry got themselves back in the game three minutes later when Chris Shields, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy, supported by Bob McKillop and David Houston, produced a dynamic scrum. When Cashel infringed. out-half Adam Parke kicked and excellent penalty to level the game at 3-3. Parity didn’t last long though and Cashel were in front again from the kick-off when Derry held on in the tackle and O’Connor converted the subsequent penalty to lead 6-3.
Cashel were now on top as the game entered its second quarter with Derry finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the home team’s physicality and superb off-loading in the tackle. Cashel increased their lead on 24 minutes when out-half Conor Quinlan found O’Connor coming into the line to release centre Brian Silke who got in for an unconverted try in the corner and the lead was looking ominous at 11-3.
Derry did reduce the deficit from the kick off when Cashel infringed and Parke kicked another penalty from 35m but even at 11-6, the visitors’ failure to trouble to Cashel rearguard will have been a worry for Nicholl and assistant Ashley Blair.
Cashel were winning the battle of the breakdown and their physical power kept them on the front foot while Derry scrambled for any quality possession as their penalty against count increased. Bob McKillop was sent to the sin-bin on 34 minutes with O’Connor converting the resultant penalty from in front of the post 20m out to send Cashel in at the break 14-6 to the good and in control.
Derry brought on their captain David Funston who was returning from injury and he immediately made an impact with his aggression and intensity around the pitch. Derry improved their all round play and were getting more possession as they looked to break down the Cashel defence but they were finding it difficult to make any real inroads. The only reward for Derry was a penalty after 54 minutes when Parke kicked from 30m and Cashel’s lead was back to 14-9.
The home side lifted their play as the game reached its final quarter and set up a series of 10m scrums that lasted for five minutes. Derry were deemed to have infringed several times and gave away penalties but Cashel reset the scrum each time. The referee eventually gave a penalty try which O’Connor converted to seal the game at 21-9 with 65 minutes on the clock. This was the first penalty try that Derry have conceded for a number of years and it was a disappointed set of forwards that congregated on the half-way line for the restart.
Derry never looked like getting back into the game after that and they were second best in all aspects of play. Any glimmer of hope they had was finally extinguished when prop Paul McFeely was unluckily sin binned on 70 minutes. The game ran its course for the last 10 minutes with Cashel happy contain Derry and take their victory.
The All Ireland League now takes a break until mid-January and Derry will return to the Ulster Senior League with two important fixtures either side of Christmas, away to Dungannon and at home to Ballynahinch. Derry currently top the league, three points ahead of Ballynahinch having played the same number of games.
City of Derry: Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Bob McKillop, Adam Bratton, Tom Patton, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Adam Parke, David Graham, Ryan Campbell, Chris Barber, William McCleery, Peter Henderson. Replacements; David Ferguson, Paul McFeely, David Funston, Simon Logue, Jack Caithness.