The strength of the home bench proved to be the difference between the sides when City of Derry finished strongly to beat Rainey Old Boys 29-17 in the Ulster League at Judges Road where most of the holiday crowd wisely opted for the warmth of the clubhouse to follow the action on an ice-cold,showery afternoon.
A spirited young Rainey side had done well to get back into the game after trailing 19-3 at half-time and were looking quite capable of snatching an unlikely victory when Derry turned to their bench to alter the course of the contest.
The introduction of the old guard up front had an immediate impact.
Helped on their way, needless to say, by Rainey’s inability to hang on to the ball in contact, they ran in two tries in quick succession to copperfasten their third victory over the Old Boys this season.
Both sides have had a bad run with injuries lately, as was reflected in the starting lineups. Derry elected to rest some of their most experienced forwards while Rainey again had to pin their faith in youth.
Defensive lapses have been a major cause for concern for Rainey who started well only to concede a soft try beneath the posts after five minutes.
They rallied to establish some good attacking positions,but lacked the firepower to maul their way over and the accuracy behind the scrum to give their wings a chance. Derry showed them how to do it when their next visit to the Rainey 22’ brought them an unconverted try.
O’Connor pushed a shot at goal well wide, but fared better from a more difficult position to reduce the deficit. Derry’s heavier scrum allowed them to work the short side for another try on the half hour.Rainey did everything but score in the minutes before the break,but their efforts went unrewarded.
Rainey’s young forwards continued to compete well with Martin putting the ball behind the opposition. Derry had two players yellow carded before Rainey were awarded a penalty try as they went for a catch and drive from a lineout.
Just as Derry scrum-half Caithness was about to rejoin the fray, a third home player was heading for the sin-bin.
Rainey continued to press and finally managed to get the ball wide for O’Connor to score and convert a try which left only two points between the sides.
Derry reacted by introducing some extra bulk and experience from the sideline and they soon made a considerable impact.
Helped, needless to say, by Rainey’s inability to hang on to the ball in contact, they powered their way through twice in as many minutes to alter the picture and make sure of the points.
Rainey: M. O’Connor, J. Fleming, K. Moore, S. Simpson, N. Stirling, G. Martin, P. Kidd, S. Rutledge, M. Nevin, N. O’Kane, P. Boyle, C. Barclay, M. Higgins, C. Fowler, C. Mitchell. Replacements : A. Campbell, C. Spence, R. Hall, P. Heaney.