City of Derry 1st XV vs Tullamore 1st XV Match Report
By Louis Fields
AIL Success for the Derry boys
City of Derry RFC 29 - 15 - Tullamore
Success means building winning habits, and a bonus point win is just the perfect start to the All Ireland league competition. Maximizing your home advantage is essential and Tullamore showed in the latter stages of the game that travelling can take its toll as they ran out of steam. Tullamore looked out on their feet in the last quarter of the game, but Derry looked fresh; the fitness work and player preparation has a lot to do with the backroom staff, Joey Gallanagh and Neil McCauley have been working tirelessly at looking after the physical health of the players. This victory had a lot to do with Derry’s conditioning and preparation. When Tullamore entered the ground to warm up, they were met with the sight of the entire Derry squad and coaches engaged in warm up session. Both the first and second fifteen engaged in a disciplined and rehearsed routine was an intimidating sight.
As the game got underway, Derry gave away a soft penalty in front of the posts and 45 meters out in the very first minute. Tullamore playing towards the Clooney Road end turned down the kick to the corner and opted to kick for goal but put it wide and right. Under pressure from Tullamore, Derry finally got out and away from danger through some outstanding disciplined defence which was to be the cornerstone of the victory. Derry’s line speed and coordinated defensive structure held up to the immense pressure. A highlight of the opening exchanges was a tackle that optimized the player’s attitude and commitment was when full back Thomas Cole
absolutely smashed the Tullamore winger forcing a turnover, quickly followed by a simply sublime clearance kick by Simon Logue
. The experience and talent of Logue was the difference in everything that was good about City of Derry, being instrumental all day and capped off a man of the match performance by scoring twice.
Tullamore didn’t offer much threat beyond the forwards and when in possession, were constantly under pressure. However, on a rare clean line-break by Tullamore the determination of Derry to scramble and defend was admirable. For a long period, Tullamore were camped deep in the Derry danger zone but again the Derry team held them up and kept them out time and time again, frustrating the visitors. With the Derry scrum holding its own and the lineout functioning well, this provided the perfect platform for Club Captain Stephen Corr
to lead from the front. A great piece of interplay between number 8 Stephen Corr
, Hooker David Ferguson
and Prop Sam Duffy
demonstrated what the men can do with ball in hand. With the pack getting in behind Tullamore, this created the opportunity for Davy Graham to burst through with his electric pace and against the run of play, Derry were within striking distance of the Tullamore line. After a number of rucks, Derry had Tullamore desperately scrambling when the razor-sharp thinking of Simon Logue
danced his way under the posts right on the half hour. McDonnell converted to lead 7-0.
Tullamore responded by throwing everything into attack. Tullamore ‘stuck it up the jumper’ and tight drive after tight drive saw Tullamore inching closer. However, the Derry defence forced them wide for the onrushing Derry back line was there to thwart and snuff out any momentum. The intensity did have its casualties. Alex McDonnell
at out-half made a line speed dash to stop the rushing Tullamore number 8 Lemecki Valpulu but unfortunately, the ferocity of the collision ended the game for both players. McDonnell had to be stretchered off and replaced by Conal Gill
The restart was more of the same with Tullamore keeping it close and playing very direct rugby. It did eventually have its reward when replacement Ger Molloy used his immense size to crash over the line under the posts after a series of rucks, the conversion completed. 7-7. The first half ended when Conal Gill
missed a difficult kick for 3 points.
The second half saw Derry race out of the blocks, the tempo was immediately higher and with Paddy Blennerhasset coming within an ankle tap of a try, it showed Derry’s intentions to get at Tullamore out wide. So as Derry started to get on the front foot, full back Thomas Cole
was coming more and more influential. He was finding and exploiting space and creating chances every time he got possession.
With Derry looking the hungrier and playing with focus it was just reward when following a scrum under the posts, Corr and Logue linked up beautifully to allow Logue in for his second try. Gill converted to make it 14-7 on 55 minutes. Scores do change games and Tullamore had a never say die attitude and just kept coming at Derry time and time again. With the penalty count rising and teams being warned it about it, David Ferguson
was singled out and shown a yellow card for repeat infringements. Tullamore took the 3 points leaving it a tight affair 14-10. The introduction of the flamboyant Richie Baird was just the lift Derry needed at this time. Richie went about putting himself to work making good ground after some excellent lineout work by Adam Bratton
. This forward momentum got Derry into position and forced Tullamore to infringe at the breakdown which resulted in a yellow card for Tullamore 12, Kelso. Conal Gill
gracefully accepted the 3 points and it was now 17-10, the home side in the lead.
From the restart, Thomas Cole
put on the after burners running a diagonal line across the pitch to half way, opening up the space for Davy Graham to blast onto the ball and for the second week in a row, run 50 meters in under the posts. Gill converted: 24-10. With just ten minutes remaining, Tullamore would not give up and through the forwards again, got themselves into position to score through Ger Molloy, conversion missed. 24-15.
As the game still looked in the balance, Derry went hunting for the bonus try and as Tullamore tired, Derry finished the stronger. Conal Gill
rounded off a solid performance after some great link up between the backs and forwards allowing him in at the corner for a vital bonus point try, conversion missed. This left the final score at 29-15 in favour of City of Derry.
All round, this was a good test of how far the club has come since the end of last season. The All Ireland League has always been the goal for Derry, getting the club back to winning ways is the first step. The second XV won 48-22 against CIYMS and the Third XV had an impressive 60-5 win away in Ballyshannon. With the U18 winning against Letterkenny 0-48, it meant a very good day for City of Derry RFC.
Next week, Derry travel to Bruff in county Limerick to face a very tough test. Bruff went down 35-8 away to Middleon and they undoubtedly will want to bounce straight back. Other results saw Bangor win away to a much fancied Malahide 44-19, Omagh faced a tough opener away to Ballina and were beaten 23-19 picking up a losing bonus point away from home.