City of Derry 29, Seapoint 0
City of Derry warmed up for their top of the table clash with Highfield next weekend with a ‘smash and grab’ bonus point win against bottom of the table Seapoint that sends the Judges Road men 11 points clear at the top.
It was a game of contrasts for Terry McMaster’s table-toppers who were never at their free flowing, attacking best but produced a superb, disciplined defensive display in difficult underfoot conditions against the Leinster men who belied their lowly position by dominating much of the 80 minutes.
With Highfield’s home game against Rainey being postponed, the arrival of Seapoint - who had suffered nine defeats in their nine AIL games this season - suggested a routine afternoon for the Derry men but it proved anything but as Seapoint did everything but cross the home line. On this performance they will not be bottom for long.
Yet, if the mark of champions is finding a way to win when not at your best, then this was text book stuff from Derry for whom Stephen Corr, Ian Bratton and a brilliant brace from David Graham secured a bonus point that looked unlikely for much of the afternoon.
The game was almost 15 minutes old by the time Derry managed to get out of thir own half with visiting scrum-half Stephen Carroll having already missed an early penalty.
There were flashes of potential from the home side with David Funston particularly prominent with a couple of eye catching breaks but those Derry attacks were very much the exception.
Despite the Seapoint pressure, it was Derry who scored first when Funston again broke the Seapoint line and fed Simon Logue who made ground but let the ball get away from him in the tackle. Seapoint gathered but Funston had continued his run and produced a great tackle behind the posts to give Derry a 5m scrum. The home scum was dominant all afternoon and, at the second time of asking, forced the Seapoint back with Corr picking up at the base and diving over. Neil Burns converted for a 15th minute 7-0 lead.
The setback didn’t change the momentum of the game though as Seapoint continued to look the more likely scorers but found the home defence giving a season’s best display with some superb tackling inside their own ‘22.
Ian Bratton had replaced the injured Stuart Simpson for Derry on the half hour mark and seconds before half-time he was diving over in the corner to increase to home lead to 12-0. The break initiated in midfield with Andrew Semple taking a quick penalty to switch play right. Ali Beckett joined the line at pace and punched a hole in the Seapoint line but looked to have taken the wrong option by stepping inside when Logue was the spare man outside him. Beckett was stopped short but Derry recycled possession and despite some less than perfect passing, the ball eventually found its way to Bratton who showed great strength to break through two would-be tacklers and score.
The 12-0 interval deficit was incredibly harsh on the visitors but they were not looking for sympathy as they continued to impress after the break even after captain Eoin Cremen saw yellow for repeated infringements at the break down.
Indeed the Seapoint captain was one of a number of visiting players who could have carded with some dubious antics at the break-down helping to stifle Derry’s attempts to build momentum.
Yet a Neil Burns penalty was all Derry could muster with the extra man and the 15-0 lead looked anything but secure when Stephen Corr was sent to the ‘bin’ on 63 minutes and a back to full strength Seapoint set up camp inside the home ‘22.
Time and again the Dubliners looked set to cross the Derry line but every time it was met with tackling that bordered on heroic and no Derry players was found wanting.
The onslaught lasted more than 10 minutes before Semple managed to turn it over and the ball was kicked clear for some temporary respite.
Yet back came Seapoint again and play was once more only metres from the Derry line when Davy Graham managed to intercept a loose pass. The Derry winger had plenty of work to do but ignored what looked his best option of passing to break two tackles and charge the length of the pitch before scoring under the posts with Burns adding the extras for 22-0.
It was a fantastic solo try and finally broke the Seapoint spirit but as the clock ticked into injury time though, McMaster’s men still had time for one more play. Burns kicked for touch inside his own 22. The line-out was secured by Houston with play switched first left, then back right with Graham showing remarkable strength again to break through and secure the bonus point.
To sum up Seapoint’s luck on the day, Burns’ difficult conversion dropped over the bar courtesy of the inside of the post to send Derry 11 points clear ahead of next weekend’s crucial clash with second placed Highfield at Judges Road.
City of Derry: Rory Squires, David Ferguson (c), Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Stephen Dickey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Neil Burns, Simon Logue, Stuart Simpson, David Funston, Ali Beckett. (Replacements) Ross Harkin, David Houston, Craig Huey, Richard Baird, Ian Bratton.
Seapoint: Brian Lyons, Peter Hipple, Liam Feaheny, Evan Keough, Jonathan Walsh, Michael Kerr, Zac Jungmann, Eoin Cremen (c), Stephen Carroll, Ken Casey, Simon Faithouz, Conor Byrne, Tom O’Reilly, Alex O’Connor. (Replacements) Conor Dolphin, Cian O’Higgins, Richard Doyle, Patrick Crown, Cian Buchley.
Referee: Daithi Flood (IRFU)