City of Derry fall to first defeat of season in Highfield

Richard McCarter's late try looked to have won Saturday game in highfield before the home side scored in injury time.
Richard McCarter's late try looked to have won Saturday game in highfield before the home side scored in injury time.

Highfield 29, City of Derry 27

City of Derry remain three points clear at the top of Division 2B despite suffering their first AIL defeat of the season in injury time against Highfield in Cork on Saturday.

The game was won and lost a couple of times by both teams in the last 25 minutes as the final play of the game saw Highfield, who were five points down, carry the ball 70m through 20 phases to touch down between the posts for a converted try after close to 15 minutes of extra time.

The weather was perfect for rugby and Highfield started with all out attack for the first 10 minutes though terrific defence from Derry kept their line intact but yielded two penalties and a 6-0 lead from the boot of out-half Dylan Horgan.

Derry got themselves into the game after weathering the early storm and eventually their class started to shine through as their backs got some quality ball. The Derry scrum was dominant throughout and their front row of Rory Squires, captain David Ferguson and Same Duffy were always going forward and with Chris Cooper and David Houston securing their own ball the Judges Road men looked dangerous.

There were 15 minutes on the clock when Neil Burns, Stephen Corr and Steven Dickey produced quick ruck ball for Andrew Semple to release Ali Beckett on the wing to beat three players and touch down for a try wide out. Neil Burns kicked a terrific conversion to put Derry in front by 7-6.

The Derry pressure was mounting with wingers Simon Logue and Neil Brown eager for work and centres David Graham and Davis Funston making strong runs. With Beckett and Neill Burns rampant, there seemed a gulf in class between opposite back lines.

Burns hit the post with a raking penalty from 45m out on the left wing on 20 minutes but Derry, with all the pressure now, produced an exquisite move on 22 minutes. A strong scrum saw Corr fed Semple who found Beckett outside him to make the initial break. Beckett off-loaded to Neil Brown outside him running loose and when he went past a couple of players he had the vision to pick out Funston inside him to run in from 25m to touch down for a try between the posts. Burns converted to leave the Judges Road men in control at 14-6.

Highfield came back at Derry and lack of concentration at the scrum allowed Horgan to kick a 35m penalty to reduce the deficit to 14-9.

On the half hour mark, Simon Logue made a great break down the left wing but an illegal high tackle stopped him 30m out, Neil Burns kicking the subsequent penalty to put Derry 17-9 in front.

Derry gave away a soft penalty and the half time whistle sounded after Hogan converted to leave Derry ahead by 17-12.

The first 20 minutes of the second half saw the game stuck midfield as Derry struggled to get their hands on the ball. Derry Head Coach, Terry McMaster, went to freshen up his team by introducing on Richard McCarter, Adam Bratton and Craig Huey.

However, Highfield with their big pack were looking dangerous when Derry lost Andrew Semple to the sin bin on 61 minutes, the pressure mounted. Highfield were camped near the Derry line and a strong scrum on 63 minutes saw them go left from five meters with their left winger Ritchie Duggan getting in for a try in the corner. Horgan converted to put Highfield 19-17 in front.

McCarter kicked a penalty from 35m to put Derry one point up on 67 minutes and just missed under the cross bar with another penalty from the half-way line on 70 minutes.

Horgan responded for the home side with another penalty to put Highfield 22-20 with seven minutes remaining but Derry responded in style when McCarter intercepted 20m out to score between the posts on 79 minutes. He converted himself to put Derry in front by 27-22 and it looked game over as the clock went into extra time.

Then the impossible happened as Highfield ran over 20 phases and their No. 8 touched down for a try between the posts to level. When Horgan converted, the home supporters went wild as the Corkonians had won by 29-27.

City of Derry: Rory Squires, David Ferguson (capt), Sam Duffy, David Houston, Chris Cooper, Steven Dickey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Simon Logue, David Funston, David Graham, Neil Brown, Ali Beckett. Replacements; Ger Collins, Cathal Cregan, Adam Bratton, Craig Huey, Richard McCarter.