All Ireland League Division 2C
City of Derry 27, Malahide 45
City of Derry's mini revival ground to an abrupt halt against a slick, six-try Malahide outfit at Judges Road but Tiernan Thornton's injury time consolation score provided a crucial late footnote.
The Leinster men were worthy winners, helped on their way by some uncharacteristically poor Derry defence, but the spirit imbued by two victories on the bounce prior to Saturday's defeat was evident as Thornton's late try brought a bonus point that could be critical in a relegation battle that will be decided by inches rather than miles.
The bonus point means Derry remain level on 22 points with Tullamore, who defeated Omagh, and thankful for a dramatic injury time winner for Midleton which stopped Thomond from leap-frogging the locals but only seven points separate sixth placed Bangor from bottom of the table Seapoint.
The remaining five games are unlikely to put much daylight between any of those teams with clubs taking points off each other every week so every point won is crucial. Indeed Bangor's eight bonus points this season are the main reason they have staved off the bottom thus far, illustrating the benefit of taking something even in defeat.
To that end, Derry did what they could against a very impressive Leinster outfit. The frustration though was that Derry handed Malahide a foothold in the game after a positive started that yielded the home side a 10-0 lead.
Critically Malahide's opening try came only seconds after Matthew Orr's penalty had been added to Simon Logue's superb opening try, all inside the opening 12 minutes.
Derry were missing players - Chris Lamberton and Alex McDonnell notable absentees - but they didn't start like it. however the longer the game wore on, the greater experience of an excellent Malahide back line shone through. They were superb and didn't need the helping hand offered by some very poor Derry tackling.
Yet those opening minutes offered only optimism. Buoyed by victories over Midleton and Thomond, Derry started with confidence and it took only three minutes to breach the visitors line.
David Lapsley's superb break down the left was the catalyst. He was stopped but retained possession and when the troops arrived, play was eventually switched right. From there is was all about Davy Graham who accepted a pass from Logue, stood his marker up and then blew him away with blistering pace. Logue was the only man to stay with him and when the cover came across, Graham popped a return pass back inside and Logue ran in under the posts with Orr converting.
That was soon added to by Orr's penalty but within seconds of that kick the tide began to turn.
Rory McGinty's attempted clearing kick was charged down from the restart with the young scrum-half probably not being afforded the protection he would have expected from his pack on the kick. Still, even with the block, it doesn't explain the ease with which flanker Simon Kinsella galloped through a non existent defence before finding Brendan Guilfoyle to finish with Adam Kennedy converting.
Referee Mike Scanlon's interpretation of the 'high tackle' came in for some criticism from the home crowd but the official was consistent with those call even if he appeared to be more lenient with some of the Malahide holding in the tight at times.
One such high tackle brought the visitors the lead when they kicked to the corner on 29 minutes and, from the line-out, rolled Kinsella over for a 10-12 lead.
The game was still in the balance but two tries in quick succession killed Derry hopes.
From the restart, Malahide centre Rory Kavanagh inexplicably waltzed through for another try which was added to by flanker John Shine in the seconds before half-time for a 10-26 interval score.
When second row Dave Nolan then crashed over eight minutes into the second half, it meant 33 unanswered points for the visitors and a mountain to climb for Paul O'Kane's side.
They never looked like managing it but the spirit shown in grabbing three further tries to secure the bonus cannot be underestimated and will be needed over the next five game.
Simon Logue's superb run from the restart to Nolan's try eventually saw Lapsely go in for a try the impressive Keelan Coyle converted in an encouraging cameo off the bench.
Further tries from Guilfoyle and Nolan added to the visitor's tally but the match had long since gone. It was only about a bonus now for Derry and further good work from Coyle teed up Davy Graham to offer Derry a glimmer of hope.
The clock was well into injury time when that hope was realised, Graham turning provider this time to play in Tiernan Thornton for a try which meant little to the outcome but could mean everything to Derry's season.
City of Derry: Ross Harkin, David Ferguson, Jimmy Hamilton, Conor McMenamin, Gerard Doherty, Tiernan Thornton, Craig Huey, Stephen Corr, Rory McGinty, Matthew Orr, Ian Bratton, Thomas Cole, David Lapsley, David Graham, Simon Logue.
(Replacements) Cathal Cregan, Barry Laverty, Jack Townley, Keelan Coyle, James Perry.
Malahide: Reece O'Connell, Simon Malone, Darren Martin, Leo Veis, Dave Nolan, Simon Kinsella, John Shine, Brendan Guilfoyle, Mark Synott, Adam Kennedy, Rory Kavanagh, Dan Hayes, Daniel Poolman.
(Replacements) TJ Relihan, Damian Butler, Peter O'Connor, Cian Scott, David Quirkey.
Referee: Mike Scanlon.