All Ireland League Rugby, Division 2C
City of Derry 18, Bruff 19
City of Derry Head Coach Paul O’Kane cut a frustrated figure as the local side were denied an opening day All Ireland League win in injury time against Bruff on Saturday.
Tries either side of half time from Simon Logue and Davy Graham, the latter’s a superb solo effort, along with the reliable boot of Neil Burns, had Derry 18-12 ahead and seemingly poised for victory until the Munster men staged a late smash and grab with the last play to leave O’Kane shell shocked.
”We lacked a bit of game management to see out a game that we should have won,” lamented the Derry Head Coach, “Being realistic, we put ourselves in a position to win the game and I would say we lost the game rather than Bruff won it.
”If you are six points up with six minutes to go, you have to win but we made a few bad decisions and let the referee become more involved than we needed to.”
An encouraging opening saw Neil Burns kick Derry in front from a penalty but a misfiring line-out gave the home side trouble all afternoon and Bruff capitalised on some Derry indecision to lead 3-12.
A second Burns penalty followed by a trademark piece of Logue finishing brought Bruff’s lead back to the minimum by half-time and when Davy Graham set off for a superb 80m solo try that Burns converted 10 minutes after the break, Derry were in control at 18-12.
Indeed they looked comfortable without ever fully taking advantage of a back-line that looked capable of further scores. Bruff battled away, their forward orientated game eventually bringing them a controversial winner after Derry had been harshly penalised at a ruck. It was a decision that left O’Kane scratching his head.
“I didn’t think the referee had the best game, his management of the break-down was poor in my opinion,” explained the Derry coach, “It’s frustrating when, from our perspective, things are missed for almost 80 minutes and the first penalty infringement he gives at the ruck was against us when I didn’t even think it was a ruck. It’s frustrating but take that out of it, we still should have won the game.
“It was just decision making under pressure and a bit of the rub of the green but you have to make your own luck as well. We still had enough chances to win that game though that’s probably the positive you can take from it.
”This time last year, Bruff put 40 points on us down in Limerick but it’s disappointing that we didn’t kick on from the end of last season when we beat them with a bonus point.
“Bruff might be in a different place to us right now; they got to play-off final last season and have recruited well with three Kiwis and a decent French ‘9’ playing but I still thought we were the better team and should have been able to close the game out.”
Derry’s cause wasn’t helped by losing captain David Ferguson after only 25 minutes to a neck injury that could see him miss this weekend’s trip to Skerries, a match for which Derry will also be missing Gerard Doherty who gets married this week.
“It’s hard to take anything from the game at the minute. Maybe it will count for something later in the season but regardless of who you’re playing, you have to win your home games.
“You saw two really contrasting styles. Bruff are heavy, physical and tried to batter us into submission but for the majority of the game we coped with them quite comfortably.
”It was only really when we let them dictate to us, and made a few silly decisions, that they came into it.
“Their first try came from a 20m maul line-out and I thought our decision making as to how we defended that was naive. It costs us a try but at 18-12, I thought we had the game won if I’m honest.”
CITY OF DERRY: Jimmy Hamilton, Sam Duffy, David Ferguson, Gerard Doherty, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Corr, Criag Huey, Quermy Warmerdam, Ricardo Schneider, Neil Burns, Alex McDonnell, Thomas Cole, David Graham, Callum O’Hagan, Simon Logue.(Replacements) C Cregan, E Ferry, J Sayers, T Thornton, D Lapsley.