City of Derry suffered their third AIL defeat in a row when they suffered a hard fought 19-16 defeat at Armagh, on Saturday.
The Judges Road were 16-6 behind at half-time with Armagh getting their scores from an early try from prop Daryl Morton and three penalties and a conversion from out half Harry Boyd.
The retort for Derry came from two Neil Burns penalties and they put themselves right back in the game in the second half with an early try from Simon Logue and a conversion from Andrew Semple and with Semple and Boyd exchanging penalties the remaining 25 minutes were scoreless.
Armagh started the game with some intent early that was to set the pattern for the reminder of the first half as they looked up for the challenge.
The home side were in front after five minutes when their pack dominated Derry at the first few breakdowns and their reward was a try from prop forward Daryl Morton and when out half Harry Boyd converted to give them a 7-0 lead.
Derry were quick to reply and Andrew Semple made a great break to put Armagh on the back foot and when the ball was killed at the breakdown Neil Burns converted a simple penalty from 20 metres to reduce the arrears to 7-3 with seven minutes gone.
Derry were having their best passage of play in a very lively game and captain David Ferguson turned over ball for Derry on nine minutes and Neil Burns kicked a great penalty from 45 metres a couple of minutes later and the Judges Road boys were 7-6 behind.
Armagh missed a kickable penalty for pressure on 14 minutes but Boyd made no mistake two minutes later with a penalty from 22 metre to increase the home advantage to 10-6.
Derry’s only threat was a couple of long range missed penalties from 50 metres.
Boyd added two penalties to Armagh’s total on 29 and 32 minutes to leave the half-time score 16-6 for the Orchard County men.
Terry McMaster rung the changes at half-time as Richard McCarter and Richard Baird both came from the bench with McCarter slotting into out half.
Things did now go well initially for Derry as they were unlucky to loose wing forward Steven Dickey to the sin bin within a minute of the restart.
The visitors scored a super try after Simon Logue skipped in by the posts and Semple made no mistake with the conversion and the score was 16-13 in the home side’s favour.
Armagh came straight back at Derry and Boyd kicked another penalty for off side on 48 minutes and the home team were 19-13 in front.
Logue and Beckett combined on 53 minutes with a great break down the left wing and when Armagh were caught off side Semple kicked an easy penalty for a 19-16 score line.
Soon after Derry lost Richard Baird to the sin bin which meant the Judges Road men played 20 minutes of the second half with just 14 men.
There was no lack of effort from the Derry men but their pack struggled to win quality go forward ball to capitalise on their superior backline.
There was a feeling among both sets of supporters that there was one more score left in Derry to once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Derry pressed forward as time ebbed away and won a series of penalties that got them to the Armagh 22.
Terry McMaster’s side won another penalty which was probably kickable but they went for victory with a kick for a 5 metre line out on the right touchline.
Derry won possession but Armagh collapsed their drive to win possession via a scrum put in.
Armagh cleared their lines but Derry had another go when McCarter released Simon Logue down the left wing and he looked home for all money but was stopped 10 metres from the line.
Despite Derry’s three successive defeats they still remain in control of their own destiny with just there fixtures remaining, their next game is at home to Sundays Well on Saturday March 5th and then away to second from bottom of the league Bective with the last game of the season at home to Barnhall on Saturday April 2nd.
Derry are eight points ahead of second placed Greystones with both having played the same number of games. Highfield are nine points behind Derry and are third in the league but have a game in hand.
A home win for Derry against Sundays Well will give the Judges Road men the opportunity to win the league title away to Bective in Donnybrook on Saturday March 26th.