City of Derry 23, Blackrock 27
A losing bonus point proved little consolation as City of Derry fell to a frustrating four point defeat to second in the table Blackrock at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Nicholl’s men conceded a second minute try to the Dubliners but recovered well to match the in-form visitors for most of a match in which a number of key decisions went against Derry at crucial stages.
Blackrock caught Derry cold from the kick-off, securing a line-out inside the Derry 22’ and once Owen Cullen - brother of Irish international Leo - had secured a slick set-piece, Cillian Duffy was the chief beneficiary to get over the line and touch down. With scrum half Jack O’Carroll converting Blackrock held an early 7-0 lead.
Andrew Semple reduced the deficit from a ninth minute penalty after Blackrock had cynically brought a Stephen Ferguson inspired attack to an end and throughout the game, the visitors enjoyed the benefit of the doubt from referee Paul Haycock.
After Derry had wasted another excellent Henderson break, Blackrock hooker Conor Kilcoyne took advantage of a Duff break to get in under the posts for another converted try which took them 14-3 clear despite Derry enjoying the better of the territorial contest.
O’Carroll stretched the lead from a penalty after Andrew Semple had sent one inches wide at the other end but Derry deservedly got themselves back into the game two minutes before the break. From a line-out in the right corner, Derry eventually switched play left where Richard McCarter’s pass picked out Peter Henderson arriving at pace and the full-back weaved his way through to score. Semple despatched the conversion and Derry went in 17-10 down.
The second half started the same way as the first, with a Blackrock try, this time after three minutes. Kilcoyne did the hard work with an incisive break which allowed centre Emile Van Wyk to stroll in and O’Carroll convert.
A Semple penalty immediately brought it back to 24-13 and only a superb last ditch tackle stopped the impressive David Houston scoring.
It was only a temporary reprieve though as Henderson once again pierced the Blackrock defence, this time chasing down his own kick through to score another individual effort which Semple converted for 20-24.
A dubious 58th minute penalty against Derry as they chased a kick forward allowed O’Carroll to increase the Blackrock lead to 27-20 and things looked bleak when, despite a number of infringements by the visitors throughout the game, Derry hooker David Ferguson picked up a strange yellow card as his team seemed to be driving Blackrock back toward their own line.
Despite the set back, Derry continued to press with the pressure eventually forcing Blackrock winger Simon Jan Byrne to step over the line once too often and he followed Ferguson into the sin-bin on 68 minutes. That allowed Semple to kick Derry to within four points and Derry had chances to win the game.
They should have been ahead on 72 minutes when McCarter threw a brilliant dummy pass to break clear of the Blackrock defence and go clear. Approaching the last man, McCarter chipped ahead and looked to be tripped as he went round the last Blackrock defender ahead of what seemed a certain try. With the home crowd baying for a penalty try, the referee appeared to over-rule his touch judge and allowed play to continue.
Derry continued to press forward but despite opportunities, they could not break through and remain fourth from bottom on 14 points, five clear of the bottom three.
City of Derry: Chris Shields, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, David Houston, Richard Baird, Stephen Corr, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Jack Beattie, Stuart Simpson, David Funston William McCleery, Peter Henderson. (Replacements) Cathal Cregan, Bob McKillop, Johnny Kennedy, David Graham.
Blackrock: Michael Carroll, Conor Kilcoyne, Mark O’Brien, Owen Cullen, Cillian Duff, Sam Cooke, Luke Hickey, Richard Marsh, Jack O’Carroll, Peter Quirke, Jan Simon Byrne, Sean Caughlin, Emile Van Wyk, Davey Rowan, Dave Scott Lennon. (Replacements) Paddy Carroll, David Lewis, Gary Fenn, Daniel Barnett, Alex Walsh.
Referee: Paul Haycock (IRFU)