Dungannon 25, City of Derry 37
City of Derry’s superb form at the top of AIL Division 2B continued on Saturday when they became the first team to leave Stevenson Park, Dungannon with maximum points following a five-try 37-25 victory.
Once again, it was an impressive first half performance which laid the foundations for victory, Terry McMaster’s side building a 23-6 interval lead before three tries from Dungannon substitute prop Steven Sinnamon made for a much closer secoond 40 minutes from the hosts.
The result leaves Derry clear at the top of the table with 24 points from a possible 25, six clear of Highfield in second place and 10 ahead of third placed Greystones.
With conditions excellent for running rugby, Paul Armstrong opened the scoring for Dungannon with a penalty on two minutes but Neil Burns continued his good form with the boot by levelling in similar fashion only seconds later.
The visitors were looking sharp and a superb break from David Funston took his team to the Dungannon ‘22 before being held up. The Derry threat looked to be contained but when Dungannon lost out at a line-out the Derry skipper, David Ferguson, made good ground and won a penalty from which Burns kicked his side into a 6-3 lead on 12 minutes.
Three minutes later and full-back Alistair Beckett, who had been an injury doubt going into the game, produced a superb solo try, a mazy run taking him past a number of challenges and in for a memorable score which Burns converted for 13-3.
The visitors deserved their 10 point lead after forcing Dungannon back for most of the opening exchanges and there was further bad news for the hosts going into the second quarter when Seamus Mallon was sent to the sin-bin to hand Derry a numerical advantage.
And Derry made the extra man count as Neil Brown and Simon Logue scored excellent tries on 22 and 30 minutes to put Derry in a commanding position. In between, Armstrong did land a huge penalty for Dungannon but with the half ending 23-6, Derry were in the ascendency.
Dungannon coach, Andy Hughes, undoubtedly had a few choice words for his team at half-time as the second half witnessed a much improved home display but Derry were always in control.
A notable break from Darren Simpson put Dungannon on the front foot during the early stages of the second period but excellent defence from visitors meant two visits to the Derry ‘danger zone’ had brought no reward for the Co. Tyrone men.
Finally, however, Sinnamon finished off a strong line-out drive with a pushover try which Armstrong converted on 55 minutes and at 23-10 Dungannon looked capable of getting back in the game.
When they needed a response however, Derry found it only three minutes after the Dunganon try with Davy Graham running through to touch down and Burns again converting to restore Derry’s advantage.
Going into the final quarter and Dungannon were back on the offensive. Good work by the pack saw Stephen Todd held up and a five metre scrum was ordered from which Sinnamon eventually charged over for his second try.
At 18-30 Dungannon were still in with a chance but another brilliant Derry surge this time saw Funston make the crucial break to get over the line with Burns converting.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Sinnamon secured his own little bit of history when he burst through to complete his ‘hat trick’, the first ever prop to do so for Dungannon. Armstrong converted and Dungannon kept the pressure on in search of a fourth try which would have brought a bonus point.
The home pressure saw Funston binned as Dungannon edged closer to the Derry line but Derry’s defence held firm to see out what could prove a crucial victory.