Towns' Cup exit for City of Derry but positives in Clogher Valley defeat
Ulster Rugby Towns' Cup, Second Round
City of Derry 22, Clogher Valler 28
Knocked out, yes, but inot exactly Towns' Cup misery for City of Derry who can take plenty of positives despite an exit at the hands of unbeaten league leaders Clogher Valley at Judges Road on Saturday.
It was the toughest possible draw for Richard McCarter's side against a team with nine wins from nine in the Kukri Ulster Championship Division One table and while any defeat is disappointing, there were further signs of progress for the 'Green and Black' who have now pushed Clogher twice this season. The Fivemiletown men deserved their victory, fighting back from a 10-5 half-time deficit and bossed the set pieces with some superb scrummaging and line-outs but they were never fully comfortable against a Derry side still missing the likes of Simon Logue and Gerard Doherty.
The home side even outscored the Tyrone club by four tries to three and but for an excessive penalty count which hindered Derry's ability to sustain attacks, they could have been even closer. Stephen Corr, Dara Gill and Joel Smyth were excellent in the back row while young full-back Killene Thornton was superb in attack and defence. In the end though, Clogher's used the conditions better and with out-half David Maxwell excellent and pacy winger Ewan Haire causing all sorts of trouble, the visitors did enough to get over the line even if two late Derry tries had them sweating more than they expected to.
The game's crucial score was Paul Armstrong's try for the visitors in first half injury time with Derry leading 10-0. It initially came from a lovely short line-out move but Derry were architect of their own downfall, coughing up possession, and it served to deflate Derry;s balloon while providing a major boost for Clogher at a crucial juncture. Prior to that Derry had defended well and scored two well worked tries. The first arrived 13 minutes in with David Lapsley the creator, twice chasing and kicking on his own ball for jet heeled Davy Graham to win the race the bouncing ball and touch down in the corner.
If that was good, Derry's second try was better and came off the back of some brilliant 'bodies on the line' defending inside their own '22'. With the pressure relieved by a Jordan Mealiff break, Alex McDonnell then kicked to the corner from where Derry won line-out possession, went through the phases and switched back blindside for Stephen Corr to crash over.
The home side had rode their luck on occasion as well though, notably when Thornton produced a try saving tackle to deny the dangerous Haire but Derry were worthy their lead. They kept it into the second half but Armstrong's score signalled a momentum shift and Clogher were well armed to take full advantage.
Another Maxwell penalty was followed by a try from Michael Treanor who looked more centre than prop as he broke three tackles to storm over for 10-25 lead after another Maxwell conversion. That looked liked that when Maxwell then cheekily return a Derry drop out with a lovely drop goal but credit the home side, they weren't about to go quietly.
With just over five minutes left, Ross McLaughlin almost grabbed an intercept try but his break did take Derry inside the Clogher '22' where, after going through the phases, Jamie Millar ducked through a gap before off loading for prop Jack Sayers to score. Davy Graham should have set up McLaughlin to grab another Derry try but delayed his pass too long. Derry's efforts were eventually rewarded with a fourth try when Millar grabbed a loose ball to touch down under the posts with McDonnell converting with the game's final kick.
It was scant reward but against a slick, high quality Clogher team, it was a performance that ultimately brought defeat also offered real reason for optimism. The challenge now for Derry is to cut out the needless penalties and continue this level. If they can d that, this team has plenty of growth in it.
City of Derry: Adam Marley, Cathal Cregan, Jack Sayers, Cein McColgan, Aaron Deery, Joel Smyth, Dara Gill, Stephen Corr, Jamie Millar, Alex McDonnell, Ross McLaughlin, David Lapsley, David Graham Jordan Mealiff, Killene Thornton. ( Replacements) Fearghus Canning, Jack Beattie.
Clogher Valley: Michael Treanor, Luke Allen, Neil Henderson, Joel Busby, Mark McKenna, David Sharkey, Tommi Coulter, Calum Smyton, Neil Trotter, David Maxwell, Taine Haire, Paul Armstrong, Michael Bothwell, Adam Bales, Ewan Haire. (Replacements) Nathan Cullinan, Kyle Cobane.
Referee: Colin Stanley