Disjointed City of Derry fall flat as Dromore win season opener at Judges Road

Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship, Division 1
David Graham gallops towards the line to score a second half try for City of Derry against Dromore at Judges Road. (Photo: George Sweeney)David Graham gallops towards the line to score a second half try for City of Derry against Dromore at Judges Road. (Photo: George Sweeney)
David Graham gallops towards the line to score a second half try for City of Derry against Dromore at Judges Road. (Photo: George Sweeney)

As far as starts go, this was of the rude awakening variety!

If anyone at City of Derry was under any sort of misconception about the size of the challenge they face in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship, Division 1 this season it was laid bare for them in a disappointing, disjointed return to the ranks of junior rugby. On this evidence, it could be a lengthy stay for the Judges Road men.

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Head Coach Richard McCarter's pre-season warning about complacency appeared to have fallen on deaf ears during an opening half which was one of the poorest seen at Judges Road for quite a few season. Misplaced passes, handling errors, poor decision-making, non existent defensive lines . . . you name it, Derry produced it across an opening half hour that saw Dromore run in three tries and do enough to win themselves the game.. Indeed the only frustration for the Co. Down men was they failed to add another try after to secure what would have been a deserved bonus point.

Yes, Derry rallied with tries of their own either side of half-time, scores that hinted at a potential comeback, but the final 43 odd minutes - which included 10 minutes of injury time - were played out without the scoreboard being troubled to cap a miserable afternoon for the 'Green and Black'.

The opening 30 minutes was all about the visitors but Derry couldn't have made it easier for Dromore if they'd rolled out the red carpet. In scrum-half Lee Steenson and out-half Adam McDonald, the visitors had the game's two dominant figures and both were influential in establishing that gift wrapped 22-0 lead. Those match winning points were all scored in 11 crazy minutes during which the Derry defensive line basically disappeared.

It took until the 18th minute for the scoreboard to get moving courtesy of McDonald's boot but it had been coming with the action being almost exclusively confined to the Derry half prior to his account opening penalty. That kick was the signal for Derry's shape to disintegrate and Dromore took full advantage.

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First a fantastic break by Derry No. 8 Stephen Corr ended with his attempted off-load being intercepted by Dromore's Aaron Stewart. The ensuing counter attack saw Dromore back row Ryan Hughes puncture Derry's defence with the ball eventually being recycled left to where Jack Dillon kicked through for Aaron Atkinson to touch down with McDonald converting for 0-10. Three minutes later Dromore were over the line again when McDonald this time fed Jonny Maguire who in turn picked out centre Andrew Rutledge to score.

Fifteen point in arrears and Derry had not yet reached the eye of the Dromore storm. That wold only come after the Dromore's third try of the day and from a home perspective, it was the worse of the lot. Fielding a long kick forward, McDonald, who was excellent all day, set off on a run that started as mazy, accelerated to piercing and ended with an individual try that took advantage of the absence of any home defence. With McDonald converting, the lead was now 22 and Derry looked in disarray.

Credit to the home side though, they regrouped to finish the half strongly. Another trademark Corr break was the catalyst for Derry to go through the phases for the first time in the game, pressure that ended with Callum O'Hagan crashing over close to the posts. With Alex McDonnell converting Derry had given them a foothold as the side turned around at 7-22.

Now Derry needed a strong start to the second half and got it, pinning the visitors back until, five minutes in, they eventually engineered a man over on the right and Davy Graham seldom needs a second invitation. McDonnell hit a lovely conversion and the deficit was down to a manageable eight points

But that would be as good as it got.

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Within seconds of that Derry try, McDonald was splitting the posts from his second penalty of the afternoon and with that the Derry fire which had seemed reignited was doused for good. Dromore enjoyed the majority of possession thereafter and the superb Derry defence that kept them out was in stark contrast to what was on show in the first half. It was too late, Derry would come away with nothing but a harsh lesson which manager Richard McCarter will hope his players heed..

City of Derry: Sam Duffy, Cathal Cregan, Adam Marley, Aaron Deery, Joel Smyth, David Brown, Dara Gill, Stephen Corr, Killene Thornton, Alex McDonnell, Colm Cregan, Calum O'Hagan, David Graham, Ian Bratton, Ross McLaughlin. (Replacements) Steven Duffy, Jake McDevitt.

Dromore: Adam Hanna, Rory Stewart, Andrew Black, Richard Dickson, Matthew McMaster, Blair McDonald, Ryan Hughes, Jonny Maguire, Lee Steenson, Adam McDonald, Aaron Atkinson, Aaron Stewart, Andrew Rutledge, Brian McClearn, Jack Dillon. (Replacements) M Hylands, J Russell.

Referee: Jonathan Peak