A good crowd turned out at Hatrick Park on Week 1 of the AIL for the Co.Derry clash between City of Derry and Rainey Old Boys.
And they witnessed a very entertaining game of rugby as the home side’s youngsters held on for a most unexpected victory against a team which beat them three times last season and just missed out on promotion.
Derry brought in former Rainey centre Simpson for unavailable scrum-half Semple ,while Rainey,already hit by withdrawals,had to do without key men Pyper and Mc Gowan.But they were able to call on Tim Barker after a long break from the game and gave a debut to little Welsh scrum-half Scott Gibson whose sensational solo try inspired them to a well-deserved 20-19 success,an injury time penalty try earning Derry a consolation bonus point.
Play moved from end to end in the opening minutes with Rainey’s lively young back-row giving Gibson,a former Ballymena player who only arrived back from Australia the day before,the chance to show that he could spot a gap.
A little grubber kick caused problems,but Derry cleared the danger and showed that they could wheel the Rainey scrum as they swept upfield to really threaten for the first time.A good offload allowed them to create numbers on the right and move it wide to wing Kennedy who ran in from the 22’ for a 14th minute try,converted from a wide angle by Mc Carter,a gifted No.10 who has missed a lot of rugby in the last twelve months.
On the half hour,Rainey drew level.Derry conceded a silly penalty to allow Rainey to drive round the tail of a lineout with prop Rutledge scrambling over for a try which full-back Mc Closkey converted.
They then missed a sitter when great work from Lees enabled out-half Emerson to ghost through and draw the last line of defence five yards out.But centre Damien Mc Murray spilled the pass.Mc Closkey pushed a kick at goal well wide as more spirited play into the wind kept Rainey in touch.
Derry established a perfect attacking position,but conceded a penalty and a favourable bounce enabled Rainey to sweep back upfield,with Barker taking it on into the 22’.Just on half-time,Derry lost second-row Houston,yellow carded for bringing down a maul,while Rainey flanker Woods had to retire with an ankle injury.
The pace did not slacken as a Jody Mc Murray break took Rainey into the Derry 22’ for a spell during which they opted for scrums rather than go for the points on offer on three occasions.Things looked bleak for Rainey when Lees was sin-binned for what the referee thought was a tip tackle on 54 minutes,but,four minutes later,Gibson stamped his class on the occasion ,a memorable touch of genius giving them the lead for the first time.Taking a very quick tap penalty just outside his 22’,he scampered through the Derry pack towards halfway.Finding no one in support,he hitch-kicked his way clear of an attempted ankle tap tackle and pinned his ears back.As Derry’s lateral defenders converged on him,he just made it to the line for a dramatic score which Mc Closkey improved.
Rainey’s midfield defence continued to hold firm and they kept Derry at bay by using the wind,a tactic they could have made even more use of.A kick and chase resulted in Mc Closkey easing them further ahead,but Derry replied with a try from the front of a lineout.With three minutes remaining,a 45 yard kick from Mc Closkey made it 20-12 and Derry had it all to do.
A lovely little show and dummy from Mc Carter created a chance,but the home cover got across to save the day.And three minutes into time added on,Derry were awarded a penalty try,with the final whistle following immediately afterwards.
TEAM : R.Mc Closkey,A.Clarke,J.Mc Murray,D.Mc Murray,M.Gordon,T.Emerson,S.Gibson,S,Rutledge,J.Roe,N.O’Kane,P.Stewart,T.Barker,T.Woods,C.Slmpson,J.Lees.
REPLACEMENTS : C.Murphy,R.Hall,G.Martin.
In the 2nd XV League,Rainey 2 ,a player short from the eighth minute,led 12-10 with fifteen minutes remaining,but wilted for visitors Derry 2 to run in three tries for a 31-12 win.Having lost players at training during the week and others picking up knocks during the game itself,this was not a bad effort at all.
Back-row man Mc Cullagh’s departure made it an uphill struggle,but they competed well,with a forward drive leading to a try from prop Hill.Derry struck again to lead 10-5 at the interval.A battling home side moved in front when scrum-half Fleming picked up a neat offload from Mc Clelland,Dillon converting.
Other results in Division 2 A : Banbridge 38-28 Cashel Bective 17 -3 Seapoint Dungannon 8-17 Nenagh Barnhall 35-8 Blackrock Naas 29-6 U.C.C. Skerries 0-22 Old Wesley Thomond 32-20 Queen’s.
200 CLUB DRAW - £ 1,000 Jonathan Blair ( Bellaghy )- T.V Cathy Mc Keefry - £ 50 Meal Voucher Henry Brown.