CITY of Derry maintained their perfect start to the season under new Head Coach Mark Nicholl with a comprehensive six-try Ulster League victory over Rainey Old Boys in Magherafelt on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors dominated from the first whistle and easily secured their second bonus point win in successive games to stay joint top of the League.
The performance as much as the result will have pleased Nicholl and his assistant Ashley Blair with plenty of aggression and commitment evident in the rucks and at the break down with some expansive, flowing play from an always dangerous back line.
The early pressure came from Derry despite playing into a strong breeze in dry conditions and with the back row of Adam Bratton, Richard Baird and Tom Patton in the thick of everything an early try look a inevitable. Indeed the only real surprise for spectators was that it took 13 minutes to arrive but when Bratton pounced on loose ball and engaged the Rainey defence with a strong drive inside the 22m line, Patton was there in support to link with ‘Man of the Match’ Richard Baird who touched down in the corner. Richard Peoples kicked a great conversion for a 7-0 lead for the Judges Road men.
Nicholl and his coaching staff were keen to take advantage of the Ulster League ruling which allows each team five substitutes which can be decisive break to link with Patton who finished an excellent team try out wide with Peoples converting for 14-0.
The Derry players were finding their rhythm with backs and forwards linking up beautifully. Peoples was pulling the strings at out-half and ensuring his centres David Funston and Ryan Campbell were getting plenty of ball to make inroads into the Rainey half.
Simon Logue made a great break from inside his own ‘22’ on 20 minutes, ghosting past five players before he eventually ran out of support and was hauled to the floor 5m from the line. It was unlucky because Logue was a constant danger and it was a move that deserved a try.
Rainey eventually got themselves back into the game with two converted penalties from Marc O’Connor to reduce the arrears at the break to 14-6 by half-time but they had never seriously threatened the Derry dominance.
Derry started the second half by bringing Jack Caithness from the bench to scrum half and moving Semple to out-half and Caithness’ impact was immediate. Four minutes in, following pressure just outside the Rainey 22, he twisted and ducked out of several attempted tackles before finding his captain, David Funston, who was able to stroll through to touch down between the posts with Peter Henderson converting for a 21-6 lead.
Ryan Spratt came on at hooker to make his senior debut for Cathal Cregan who, along with Chris Shields, Chris Cooper and David Houston, were impressive in tight and loose play all afternoon and worked hard to produce quality ball for the backs. Derry were back on the scoreboard with just 10 minutes of the second half gone when Baird once again make an incisive break to create disarray in the Rainey defence. It allowed Semple the space to receive decent quick possession and he found Logue on the wing with a two man 30m ‘miss-pass’ for an easy run-in try. Henderson converted and Derry were cruising at 28-6.
Funston produced a great steal on 55 minutes which allowed and Baird to turn and swivel past three players to touch down for an unconverted try and 33-6.
Rainey eventually got on the scoreboard again when wing forward Connor O’Neill got in for a try and O’Connor converted but at 33-13 it was never going to be anything more than a consolation
Derry produced a text-book training ground move on the hour mark when William McCleery came in off the wing on a switch move that cut the Rainey defence to pieces and set up Funston. However, with the line at this mercy but his pass to Adam Park went astray and Rainey were off the hook.
Derry produced from a 5m scrum on 70 minutes from which Semple found Funston who in turn released to Henderson to touch down between the posts and with Peoples back on, he converted for 40-13. Rainey got in for a late consolation try on the stroke of full time when Robert Lamberton touched down but the contest was long over at that point.
City of Derry; Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Steven Jefferson, David Houston, Chris Cooper, Adam Bratton, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, Simon Logue, Ryan Campbell, David Funston, William McCleery, Peter Henderson. Replacements; Paul McFeely, Ryan Spratt, Brian Prue, Jack Caithness, Adam Parke.