WHILE Dungannon were retaining the Stevenson Shield with a home victory over Ballynahinch, the two County Derry sides in the Ulster League were in opposition at Judges Road. City of Derry ran out 22-15 winners, but Rainey Old Boys made them nervous in the closing minutes as they encamped in the home 22’.
With a significant breeze in their favour, Derry totally lorded the opening exchanges, but missed two kicks at goal. In their first attack of note, after 17 minutes, Rainey handled well up the left wing before moving it across field for flanker Heaney to finish off a phase of play which gave them added confidence.
Derry kicked a penalty and were then held up as the Rainey defence was put to the test. They were rock solid at a scrum before Heaney pounced on the loose ball to enable Sciascia to clear. On their next visit to the Derry 22’, wing Wilson chased a kick through and put in a tap tackle which set up a great chance, but a knock-on saved the home side. A penalty to the corner created another promising situation, but a turnover allowed Derry to clear, but only as far as Wilson who countered infield to find support which sent Sciascia away on the right for a fine score.
Derry turned up the heat as half-time approached and Rainey out-half Martin was sin-binned. Deep in time added on, second-row Houston crossed for centre Parke to bring the scores level at 10-10.
Derry made the extra man count after the break, pacey wing McCleery coming into the middle to pick up a try himself and playing a major role in a converted try by left-wing Baird.
It looked ominous for Rainey at this stage, but they did not lie down and worked their way downfield for No. 8 Dawson to score from a catch and drive.
Flanker Hawe was held up and a Derry forward yellow carded, but a five metre scrum did not go as planned and a great chance was lost.
Derry always looked dangerous and full-back Clarke saved Rainey with a great tackle on McCleery who made an electrifying break through the centre of the field. Rainey did everything but score in the closing minutes as they poured forward in search of a fourth try. Derry conceded two penalties on their own line, with Rainey opting for scrums on both occasions and failing to make the breakthrough. Perhaps a catch and drive might have been a wiser choice. Who knows?
Team : A.Clarke, P.Wilson, D.McMurray, W.Montgomery, M.McClelland, G.Martin, P.Sciascia, S.McDowell, S.Sufferin, N.O’Kane, P.Boyle, P.Stewart, P.Heaney, S.Hawe, D.Dawson.
Replacements: J.Cassidy, R.Hill, A.Harbinson, C.Donaghy.
Michael Shiels, who captained Ulster Under 20 earlier in the season, played at second-row for a young Ulster Ravens side which defeated Connacht A at Deramore last week. He picked up a hand injury in that game, causing him to miss the Derry fixture. City of Derry scrum-half Semple and second-row Houston also played .
In the 2nd XV League, Derry and Rainey drew 32-32 at Judges Road. Derry led 17-15 at the interval. Two well-matched sides produced some good running rugby, but were guilty of some poor tackling and handling and too often allowed the high ball to bounce on a very firm surface.
The score changed hands several times and Rainey could have paid for some slack play when Derry missed a relatively easy conversion late in the game. Scorers for Rainey were - J.Cassidy, R.Hill, C.Heaney, Cassidy again and Irvine.
Fixtures for Saturday 17th March
1st XV v Ards - Ulster League - A - 2.30pm
2nd XV v Ards - 1.00pm