Ballynahinch 33, City of Derry 29
City of Derry’s Senior Cup adventure is over after the Judges Road men threw away a match-winning position against AIL Division 1A side Ballynahinch Saturday’s Quarter-final at Ballymacaron Park.
Terry McMaster’s team were leading 24-8 with less than 20 minutes to go and in total control following two tries from Stephen Corr and one from David Graham before conceding three late tries to end hopes of a potential semi-final spot.
With priorities lying elsewhere this season, McMaster did rotate his squad but such is the strength of the Derry panel this season, that a strong starting XV still dominated much of the game against the Co. Down side.
The visitors conceded an early penalty to allow Ballynahinch an early 3-0 lead but Derry were gradually playing themselves into the game with Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan and Rory Squires a formidable front row well supported by Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton in the second row.
Derry produced some good play from their back row of Stephen Corr, Steven Dickey and Craig Huey on 15 minutes and when ‘Hinch went offside, Neil Burns kicked the penalty to deservedly bring Derry level.
The Judges Road men received a setback on 20 minutes when they lost full back Ali Beckett to injury which resulted in Andrew Semple coming into scrum half with Simon Logue moving to full back.
However, Semple showed his class within minutes of arriving when, from a ruck, he mesmerised the ‘Hinch back line with two exquisite side-steps to release winger Ian Bratton but foul play from Ballynahinch stopped the move and they lost a player to the sin bin.
Derry were on top and a strong scrum on 30 minutes saw Corr, who was having a great game, touch down for a try which Burns converted to put Derry men 10-3 ahead.
Semple and Corr then combined to set Derry on the attack again after 35 minutes and, again, Corr was on hand at the end of the move to touch down for his second try with Burns adding the extras for 17-3.
Ballynahinch got themselves back on the scoreboard just before half time when, following a line-out, they moved the ball to score an unconverted try out wide, to leave Derry leading 17-
Derry started the second half in some style when, after three minutes, backs Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Neil Brown, Stuart Simpson and Simon Logue combined to set up David Graham for a try which Burns again converted for a commanding 24-8 lead. D
McMaster introduced David Ferguson and John Burns from the bench after 55 minutes but neither lasted long on the pitch as both were forced to retire injured and will be a concern for the Derry Head Coach with a run important AIL fixture coming up in October and November.
Ballynahinch got themselves back into the game on 62 minutes when they secured turn-over ball at ruck time on the Derry 10m line. ‘Hinch moved the ball quickly and Derry were caught out of position allowing the Down men in for a converted try which cut Derry’s lead to 24-15.
From the kick-off ‘Hinch won possession and a number of miss tackles and a loss of concentration saw the home side carry the ball the length of the pitch for an unconverted try, Derry’s lead was cut to 24-20 with the momentum now with the Co. Down men.
Ballynahinch converted a penalty on 72 minutes and were now within a point of Derry at 24-23. Crucially they were on the front foot, ‘Hinch gong ahead on 76 minutes after they won a line-out and moved the ball right along the backline. Quick thinking by their scrum-half who moved the ball left to their out-half who squeezed between two Derry tacklers in midfield to touch down for a converted try and Hinch were ahead by 30pts to 24pts.
They stretched that lead with a penalty on 79 minutes for 33-24 but Derry won the kick-off and quickly moved the ball left from where David Graham touched down for an unconverted try but it wasn’t enough to salvage something from the game.
City of Derry: Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan, Rory Squires, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Craig Huey, Steven Dickey, Stephen Corr, Simon Logue, Neil Burns, Ian Bratton, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett. Replacements; David Ferguson Eoin Ferry, John Burns, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter.