City of Derry 40, Bective Rangers 17
It’s two from two; 10 from 10 but City of Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster is not about to let anyone at Judges Road get ahead of themselves.
Bective Rangers were the latest side to feel the full force of McMaster’s rejuvenated Division 2B pacesetters after a superb second half secured Derry’s their second bonus point win from two AIL games.
The result leaves the locals two points clear of Co. Derry rivals, Rainey, at this early stage but even with nine tries and 72 points from two games, McMaster is not about to let his players switch off
“I couldn’t have ask for any more than the start we’ve had but no one is going to get ahead of ourselves,” explained the Derry coach, there are no leagues decided in September. We have to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
“Bective were a hard nut to crack. I didn’t realise but they have a new coach, David Murphy (son of ex-Ireland coach Gerry Murphy) and he’s a coach I know very well. He had them well drilled but we broke them down eventually.”
Despite the eventual comfort with which Derry claimed the points, McMaster was far from happy with what he saw from his side in the opening 40 minutes.
With Neil Burns in brilliant kicking form, Derry were 3-0 up after four minutes but were caught minutes later as Bective’s Rob O’Beirne intercepted a loose pass 40m out and ran in to put his team in 7-3 in front.
Another Burns penalty reduced the deficit to a single point but despite dominated the set-pieces Derry were lacking intensity and guilty of too much lateral play.
Burns kicked Derry in front from 25m but Bective came back again and on 27 minutes, a series of missed tackles allowed O’Beirne in again for a try he converted for 14-9.
When Bective were penalised for not releasing, Burns obliged with the penalty but the impressive O’Beirne replied in kind for 17-12 to the visitors. Then the crucial score seconds before half-time, set up by Neil Burns who probably just pipped brother John to the ‘Man of the Match’ honours. Neil kicked through a perfectly for centre David Graham to touch down for a try and with Burns himself converting, Derry led 19-17 not that McMaster was happy.
“Our first half performance was funny,” he explained, “We played quite well, with a nice shape, and got our numbers right at the breakdown etc but there was no intensity about us. There was no ‘go forward’ ball. We played across the pitch too much.
“The players got a bit of a volley at half-time in terms of their intensity but in fairness they responded. Our physicality increased and we started moving forward rather than across.
“The frustrated thing about opening half was that it wasn’t a case of Bective defending really well because they didn’t have to. We didn’t ask enough questions but the players addressed that second half.”
The second half belonged to Derry. Bective lost another player to the bin within three minutes of the restart and on 58 minutes Derry made the breakthrough when Corr found Neil Burns to run in for a try he converted himself for 26-17.
With 10 minutes left, winger Neil Brown produced a bit of magic to secure the win, making his own space and touching down with Burns converting.
The bonus point was now on and it came from a strong scrum on 74 minutes. Stephen Corr picked up at No 8 and found scrum half Andrew Semple who sprinted in from 35m. Burns completed his unblemished kicking display to stretch the home lead.
”We’re in good shape,” added McMaster, “John Burns was outstanding but he has been since he arrived at the club. His brother, Neil, was also superb and gave a great display of kicking as well as a scoring a try himself. Many of those kicks were from difficult positions and he was only missing a drop goal for the full set.
“We have come a long way in a short time but nothing is won in September. There is a long way to go and this is only a start. We have a window of four games that can set up us going into the Christmas period to go again afterwards. It is all about momentum. Momentum is what allows a team to plays its best rugby.
“We have a full squad for this weekend’s trip to Sunday’s Well which will be another test but we are now in a position where everyone has to work for a starting place.
City of Derry; Chris Shields, Cathal Creggan, Sam Duffy, Adam Dvid Houston, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns(Capt), Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Simon Logue, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett.
Replacements; Graham Murphy, David Funston, Craig Huey, David Funston, Richard McCarter.