Derry hold off Inishowen with a potential 'try of the season'
By Louis Fields
CDRFC U14 29 - 12 Inishowen U14
City of Derry RFC U14 Match Report
(vs Inishowen, 6/10/18)
CDRFC U14 29 - 12 Inishowen U14
On Saturday 6th October, City of Derry U14s hosted for the first time this season, welcoming Inishowen Rugby Club to the Craig Thompson Stadium. Coming from a loss away to Omagh last week, the boys were hard at training throughout the week, eager to prove themselves at home. Fears that Inishowen would not be able to field this week threatened to see the match abandoned, which was thankfully averted. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Inishowen’s Anne Scott thankfully stepped up for the opening portion of the match as referee until the matter was resolved. Due to this, the decision was made to leave rucks uncontested, and with the absence of prop Joel Doherty, this likely worked well in Derry’s favour.
The match began with a much-improved Derry defence from the start, the boys having learned through past problems over the weeks, and in training. Defences spread to wider channels better, along with centre Ryan Norris who made blazing runs to catch breakaway opponents along the sidelines, enough to thwart several opposition attacks early on. After several advantage plays and restarts in the opening minutes due to handling errors on both sides, a midfield break from Derry fly-half Ben Biernat won valuable yards, with blistering pace from winger Oisin Sweeney proving paramount, and the ball finally crossing the line for the first time within minutes, in the hands of centre Niall Quigley. A successful conversion by Sweeney brought the home team to an early 7-0 lead.
It was up to Inishowen’s big forwards to match up, and while solid tackling performances were made consistently by the Derry centres and Cormac Kelly, not long after the restart came a few bulldozing runs which penetrated through, sucking in several Derry players at a time. While the home side’s improved defence was able to hold off for some time, strong holds from the opposition reaped the rewards of 7 points by following suit and eventually crossing the try line. 7-7.
Unphased, and unwilling to allow any more opportunities to go to waste, it was Derry who returned fire within a few minutes, with Biernat curving down the open wide channels of the pitch left vacant by an unsuspecting Inishowen defence, to slam the ball down along the wing. Derry again leading, 12-7. Keen to keep the pressure up and widen the points further, Quigley made some strong hand-offs and broke through several tackles, and by shrugging off a porous opposition defence revisits the try area for his second of the match, bringing Derry to 17-7.
Derry might have thought they could hold off until halftime with 10 points between the teams, but their fortunes soon turned. The ever-progressing scrum-half Chris McCann, while his passion and energy lead to a solid performance throughout, often finds himself in a vulnerable position, and what was almost a dump-tackle lead to an opponent landing on and damaging his shoulder. This led to a long break in play, with McCann coming off to recover. As play resumed, Inishowen were able to take advantage of a shaken Derry, and a quick blast through a kick and chase ended the half by reducing the deficit with another try. 17-12.
The opening minutes of the second half saw a plethora of mistakes occur; as penalties following offsides, and scrums following knock-ons in unsuccessful line outs, both sides struggled to get the upper-hand or advance much past the middle of the pitch. Norris, through tackling and support play had put in a stellar performance so far to win MotM, then allotted the next points; in a spectacle which is a worthy contender for Try of the Season, Norris ran course along the sideline full of sidesteps, turns, and handoffs, singlehandedly putting Derry back on track as he delivered the next blow to the opposition - another try, bringing the scores to a ten point lead once more.
Exhaustion became clear on both sides as another lull descended on the match, the game going backwards and forwards up and down the pitch with a lack of real pressure. Full-back Lochlainn Jennings, still recovering from rib injuries endured throughout the weeks, maintained his unswerving performance as he illustrated his immense confidence and solid expertise under a high ball consistently, not once missing a single catch, as well as his ability to make and take crunching, vital tackles.
Due to many fractured Derry lineouts throughout the match, a change in tactic halfway through the second half built confidence and tension, as they opted for quick tap runs instead of kicking to touch when awarded penalties. Mounting pressure made a try seem inevitable. However, handling errors gave possession away before any points could be awarded. It was captain Craig, going from strength to strength over the weeks, who topped the match off with a pick and go from the half way line in the closing minutes of the match. Several phases later, and (in what is becoming a recurring theme for his performances) ran an unstoppable blitz straight through several defending players. The inevitable try was converted, bringing Derry to 29-12 at the end of the match.
Man of the match: joint Ryan Norris, Marc Craig