CITY of Derry maintained their superb end of season form to defeat Bective Rangers in Donnybrook on Saturday and ensure a nail-biting climax to the club’s quest for promotion to All Ireland League Division 1B.
After languishing in the lower reaches of the Division 2A table for much of the early season following an indifferent start, the Judges Road men made it ten wins from ten games in all competitions to keep alive hopes of finishing in the second automatic promotion spot.
The five point- victory moves Bevan Lynch’s team into sixth spot, only three points behind second placed Malone who arrive in Derry this coming weekend for a game which will make or break both sides. With a trip to Queens to follow on the final day, it is a fascinating finale to the season which will ensure a bumper crowd at Judges Road this Saturday.
In truth, the men from the North West produced an indifferent performance against Bective but still ran in five trys to secure getting an important bonus point win.
Conditions in Dublin were perfect and Derry started with real structure, rhythm and flow to their game and were soon dominating. The first score was not long coming with the large Derry crowd still settling in their seats. The early errors were coming from Bective as a result of constant pressure and it was no surprise when Stephen Ferguson gobbled up loose ball 30m out on six minutes. When he drew the last man, his back row mate Richard Baird was on hand to run in for a try under the sticks with Richard McCarter converting for a 7-0 lead
The visitors were playing some attractive rugby and dominating at scrum time courtesy of front row Chris Shields, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy and with support from Brian Prue and David Houston go forward ball was a given for a lively back row of Stephen Corr, Richard Baird and the outstanding Stephen Ferguson.
The back row produced again on 16 minutes when Corr combined with Baird who drove powerfully for the line. Ferguson almost got in but quick ball found McCarter who picked out Chris Shields who crashed over the line by the posts for a forwards’ try which McCarter converted to double the Derry advantage.
Seemingly coasting, Derry suddenly lost their way - a worryingly recurring theme this season - as the game entered its second quarter. It was all Bective and no surprise when Daragh Fitzgerald got in for a try on 23 minutes. With Cormac O’Beirne converting, Derry’s lead was halved to 14-7 but worse was to follow. Bective came straight back at Derry from the kick-off and sustained pressure again allowed out-half Cormac O’Beirne in for a try close to the posts which he converted himself to level the game on the half hour
The pendulum had definitely swung in Bective’s favour and they looked certain to add to their tally before the break, especially when Davy Funston was sent to the bin on 34 minutes. Time was ticking towards half time when Bective butchered a golden opportunity to score. Derry cleared their lines and got play to the half way line but the home 15 turned over possession and had men over as they drove for the line. A try looked on as they moved the ball across the backline but ‘Man of the Match’ Ferguson intercepted superbly and drove forward. Quick as a flash, Simon Logue was on his shoulder and it was try time as Logue sprinted in from 40m to touch down between the posts. With McCarter converting, Derry held a somewhat fortuitous 21-14 lead.
The half time chat from Head Coach Bevan Lynch and assistant Mark Nicholl seemed to have addressed the faults of the first half as Derry went on to ‘own’ the next 30 minutes. The backs were suddenly getting quality ball with centres Chris Barber and David Funston having more influence along with Peter Henderson, William McCleery and Logue. With Andrew Semple and McCarter orchestrating affairs, it was all out attack from Derry.
Bob McKillop pounced on loose ball 40m out on the wing after 54 minutes. He drove forward and produced a sublime overhead pass to Barber that mesmerised the entire Bective defence and it was an easy run to the try the improving Coleraine man. With McCarter converting Derry’s lead was 28-14.
Derry were using their rolling substitutes well and Gareth Beattie, Stephen Duffy, Adam Bratton and Richard Peoples all played their part.
Derry produced five powerful scrums in succession on 67 minutes which left a penalty try looking ominous but Baird drove forward, supported by Corr and Ferguson, to supply quick ball which Semple used to find Henderson who got in for an unconverted try and a 33-14 lead which appeared to have wrapped the game up.
However, this Derry team does not do winning easily and for the second time they suddenly they switched off to allow Bective a chance of winning. Ferdia Kenny got in for an unconverted try on 71 minutes and three minutes later David Halliday got in for another Bective ‘five pointer’ and suddenly the Derry lead was only 33-24.
Richard Peoples steadied the ship with a long range penalty a minute from the end but straight from the kick-off, big Bective second row Joe Moran got in for another home try due which exposed some inept Derry tackling. When Cormac O’Beirne converted, the lead was down to 36-31 as injury time arrived.
The referee blew the final whistle to gasps of exasperation from the Derry contingent of players, coaches and supporters but it’s on to another massive showdown against Malone at Judges Road next Saturday.
City of Derry: Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Brian Prue, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Chris Barber, David Funston, William McCleery, Peter Henderson. Replacements; Gareth Beattie, Stephen Duffy, Bob McKillop, Adam Bratton, Richard Peoples.