City of Derry RFC 1st vs Rainey Old Boys 1st XV Match Report
By Louis Fields
Derry struggle to keep their winning ways
Rainey Old Boys RFC 27- 8 City of Derry RFC
SONI Ulster Senior League (08/09/18)
On near perfect conditions at Hatrick Park, the ever improving Derry team put up a spirited fight against a slick and quick Rainey side. The last time these two teams met Derry were well and truly beaten though this new era at City of Derry continues to build as to will expectations. Director of Rugby Paul O’ Kane was disappointed to lose the encounter because of the unforced errors and costly turnovers that found Derry on the back foot for much of the game. However, he remains optimistic, and so he should be following eighty minutes of rugby when Derry’s defence was well and truly tested.
Derry’s set piece is getting better with each game, the line out was much improved and the scrum was solid. These platforms will be crucial in the months ahead. Derry started the game and immediately found themselves defending from the first line out of the game. Inside the third minute, Rainey crossed the line when Scott McClean fed the rushing fullback Nicolas Sterling. The conversion was slotted wide. 5-0.
From the restart, Rainey were penalized for holding on. Up stepped Conal Gill to slot over the penalty from 40 meters. 5-3. Derry needed to steady the ship but unfortunately Corr was unable to gather the restart. The first scrum was a master class from Sam Duffy as he drew a penalty to relive the pressure. The resulting line out was not straight so Derry handed the ball back to Rainey. Derry need to maintain possession and make teams earn their possession, giving the ball away cheaply only invites trouble.
However, Derry’s defence was holding strong and stealing a line out just meters from their own try line was a good morale boost. Despite this, unforced errors and poorly executed passes allowed Rainey to have more possession. As Rainey built phase after phase, Derry’s defence cracked and Rainey hooker Damien O Neil drove over the line to score their second try which was converted. 12-3 after 25mins. Derry trying hard to get territory opted to get involved in kicking the ball down field which just allowed Rainey to come straight back at Derry, using their forwards to good effect. The big hits that Derry were putting in were earth shattering. Stephen Corr in particular was leading by example and Craig Huey and Stephen Duffy were putting in massive hits. With the physicality of the game it was inevitable that tempers would fray. Prop Jamie Hamilton is not one to shy away, that’s for certain.
As players acquainted themselves and the team bonding going well, it was heartening to see that this Derry side will not be easily intimidated. It was not just the Derry forwards putting their bodies on the line as Davy Graham saved Derry on more than one occasion with covering tackles. Paddy Blennerhasset when given the ball has shown that he will be one of Derry’s main threats going forward this season. He is hungry for work in attack and defends stoutly which is exactly what you want from the wingers. Derry held Rainey out but only after a nervous few minutes near the end of the half after under no pressure, Derry knocked the ball forward from their line out. The resulting scrum was rock solid drew a penalty which ended the half Rainey leading 12-3.
The second half saw a lot of tactical changes to the Derry set up with Mc Donnell and Posternack coming on at 10 and 12 and Perry moving to the wing. As the bruising encounter continued, Derry were forced to make changes and use the entire bench of Pollin, Townley and Harkin at various intervals during the second half. The second half saw Rainey take control of the game from the first minute when their slick and accurate passing got the ball to winger Lloyd Evans who slipped the ball inside to out-half Scott McClean, who converted his own try. 19-3. Rainey upped the tempo and moved Derry around the park, probing and looking for opportunities to put Derry to the sword. A five metre scrum saw the ball flash out to centre McBurrows to crash over, with the conversion missing left and leaving the score 24-3 with thirty plus minutes to play. the feelings around the ground was similar to last year when Rainey ran in 70 points.
This season, City of Derry are looking very determined and focused, even under immense pressure they are keeping their shape and structure. As Rainey got on top you could see how teams would capitulate under the strain, but not this team. What is there for all to see is the determination to play a full eighty minutes. Derry were rewarded when their best period of possession and phase play got Derry into scoring position. With confidence returning to the squad and the players playing for each other, the reward of a try came when Adam Bratton scored, McDonnell missed the conversation that he really should be converting at this level. 24-8.
Rainey hit straight back when they were awarded a penalty in front of Derry’s post. McClean slotted it over to bring the score to 27-8. James Perry received a yellow card when he was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on when attempting an interception. The decision looked harsh on James but fourteen men Derry dug in, with more scuffles between the teams giving the game a bit of an edge. In the last play of the game as Craig Huey was receiving treatment, Rainey opted to run the ball. With only 13 players on their feet, Derry defended magnificently to hold out Rainey.
Final Score Rainey OB 1st XV 27-8 City of Derry RFC 1st XV
Derry will take a lot of positives away from this game, regroup and get ready for the next challenge. Ballynahinch visit the Craig Thompson Stadium in the Ulster Senior Cup next Saturday the 15th September. The following week, Dungannon who beat Omagh 46-26 will be the penultimate game before county Offlay side Tullamore RFC visit in the All Ireland League on Saturday the 29th September.