CITY of Derry produced an outstanding display of attacking rugby at Judges Road last Saturday, as they ran out 35-22 winners in their All Ireland League Division 2A fixture against Banbridge.
Mark Nicholl’s side came from ten points behind early on to score 35 unanswered points in a 50 minute spell that sealed a bonus point victory and kept the goal of a top four position for the season alive with just five games remaining.
The Judges Road man are now just one point behind Banbridge in fourth position in the table and with Derry’s five remaining games against teams below them in the table the goal for their season is definitely attainable.
The early exchanges saw a very physical and focused Banbridge on top at the breakdown and it took sterling Derry defending especially from captain David Houston, Ryan Campbell, Chris Barber, William McCleery and Richard Baird to keep them at bay.
Banbridge scored from pressure after 11 minutes when Derry tried to run the ball out of their half. Adam Doherty the Bann out half intercepted a pass form his opposite number Richard McCarter in midfield to sprint in from 50 metres and touch down for an unconverted try and a 5-0 lead.
This setback did not faze McCarter who was back to his brilliant best varying his teams running and kicking game and in the process amassing a personal tally of 20 points.
Derry got possession turned over on the half way line after 20 minutes and quick movement by the Banbridge backs and forwards saw their big second row and captain Simon McKinstry make ground and off load to his Number 8 Dale Carson who drove in to touch down for an unconverted try and a 10-0 lead.
The momentum of the game had changed in Derry’s favour and this was confirmed on 26 minutes when centre Chris Barber got possession from scrum half Jack Caithness just inside the Banbridge half. Barber chipped the defence from 35 metres out and collected the ball to touch down for a try wide out and with McCarter converting Banbridge lead was down to 10-7.
Derry’s superiority at this stage was confirmed with some great attacking rugby from William McCleery and Simon Logue which was rewarded with two penalties from the boot of McCarter which gave the home team a 13-10 lead at the break.
Banbridge missed an early penalty with just two minutes gone in the second half and their demeanour changed when they saw Derry coaches Mark Nicholl and Ashley Blair send to the bench for the enforcers.
Sam McAuley, David Witherow and Paul McFeely came into the front row with Bob McKillop to the second row. Peter Henderson slipped on unnoticed behind the four heavy weights and this was a brave decision and a statement of intent from the Derry coaching staff. The result was immediate as pressure once again told as McCarter kicked his third penalty with just five minutes gone in the second period.
Richard Baird capitalised on good play from Funston on 50 minutes when he made a break inside the Banbridge half and when he passed to Chris Barber the writing was again on the wall as he chipped ahead once more and beat the defence to touch down deep in the in goal area for a terrific try which McCarter converted for a 23-10 lead.
The game totally swung Derry’s way on 60 minutes when Banbridge lost their captain Simon McKinstry to the bin. Derry capitalised immediately and put the game to bed within five minutes.
Firstly when a penalty was reversed McCarter kicked for touch 20 metres out. Chris Cooper won possession and when the ball was moved along the backline Richard McCarter dummied and sidestepped the defence and strolled in for a try from 20 metres out for a classic McCarter try which he converted himself for a 30-10 lead.
The influential David Funston got in for an unconverted try and the bonus point two minutes later and it was game over with Derry leading 35-10.
City of Derry seemed to relax at this stage and coughed up two late tries to allow Banbridge to get a four try bonus point from the fixture.
This was a really enjoyable game for the large home support who are being treated to some scintillating attacking rugby this season. The highlight of the game was two wonderful try’s from man of the match Chris Barber and what a way to celebrate his 21st birthday.
City of Derry 2nd XV also defeated Banbridge at home on Saturday winning 16-12, which was great preparation for their Towns Cup quarter-final fixture at home to Dungannon, this weekend.
City of Derry: Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, Chris Cooper, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Jack Caithness, Richard McCarter, William McCleery, David Funston, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue. Replacements: Sam McAuley, David Witherow, Paul McFeely, Bob McKillop, Peter Henderson.