City of Derry 23 Sunday’s Well 19
A large vocal contingent made the long trek North to support the ‘Well on a balmy Sunday day in Derry, while also gaining some welcome support from new fans over the border in Donegal. The players were clearly focused and pumped up to get what would have been a massive victory in the battle to avoid a relegation play-off but unfortunately they fell short in an open entertaining game where both teams looked to play fluent attacking rugby. The players will rue several opportunities and mistakes that cost them points on key occasions; but if they can rectify a few simple things; they should be confident of competing strongly in what will hopefully be two remaining games that are set to be hotly contested.
Derry in front of their own vocal support had some very dangerous runners, with Simon Logue and David Graham making some early incursions. The ‘Well though tackled hard and were making a nuisance of themselves at the breakdown; with the tight-five in particular getting through a lot of work. Michael Moynihan and Adam Browne regularly timed their chances to compete for the ball; regularly disrupting possession or winning crucial penalties. The ‘Well also looked to spread the ball with Fabien Loughrey and Will Tevor making some strong bursts. It was the big men up front who caused a lot of the damage; with Sean Glynn getting through a big workload, able supported by James Mulcahy and birthday boy Cormac Kelliher. Despite the ambition both sides; they each lacked some precision in attack and the game was scoreless on the half-hour mark. The hosts did have two long range penalties missed; with one coming off the post while Loughrey narrowly missed a long-ranger but was to be perfect from the tee for the remainder of the game. The closest the ‘Well had come was from a clever kick through in space by Sean McCarthy that the scrambling Derry defence just go to over the line before the ‘Well chasers. .
It was our inspirational captain Conor O’Brien who broke the deadlock with a trademark burst. Sean Glynn made some powerful carries in the middle of the field to put the Derry defence on the back-foot. The ball then went out to O’Brien who cut a great inside line, bursting through the line and he used his pace to round the covering full-back and race in under the posts. Loughrey converted and minutes later added a penalty to stretch the lead to ten points.
There is a soccer saying that a two goal lead is the most dangerous lead. In this game; a two-score seemed to be dangerous for the ‘Well as they couldn;t push on and were regularly pegged back. Some poor clearances regularly allowed Derry opportunities to score from and get back in the game. Shortly after the restart from Loughrey’s penalty the hosts were attacking, The ‘Well defended the initial waves staunchly; with Michael Moynihan almost winning the ball back. Eveentually Simon Logue cut through to run in under the posts with Alex McDonnell converting. Loughrey did add a pair of penalties either side of half-time to put the ‘Well into a 16-7 lead. However; a kick straight to touch gave the home time an attacking line-out from which they kicked over a penalty to make it a six-point game. That exact pattern was repeated as Loughrey and McDonnell exchanged another set of penalties leaving the sore at 19-13 in the ‘Well’s favour.
Eventually; Derry managed to prevent the ‘Well from extending the lead and their back-line produced a nice passing move out to the right-wing that set up a score for Robert McLaughlin with Mcdonnel’s conversion nudging his side into a single point lead. The ‘Well were chasing the game with over ten minutes remaining. Their line-out was a key weapon and they had several opportunities to get into excellent attacking positions. A pair of penalties didn’t reach touch while the tiredness may have affected the best attacking line-out they had as the referee awarded a free. McDonnell added his third penalty with a couple of minutes left and Derry held on for the win; that saw them leapfrog the ‘Well and put the Cork side into the relegation play-off spot, with Clonmel – who picked up two bonus points in their loss to Bruff.
There was undoubted disappointment that the ‘Well couldn’t close out the game given the positions they put themselves in. There is nothing like a big home derby against Midleton to refocus the mind. All supporters are urged to come along and get behind the team – who have produced several fantastic displays this year at Musgrave Park. A win here could go a long way to putting the team into a position to secure safety and the players and management can’t be faulted for effort and commitment and the edge the great home crowd proivides could yet prove crucial. .
Scorers: City of Derry: S Logue, R McLaughlin tries; A McDonnell 3 pens, 2 cons. Sunday’s Well: C O’Brien try; F Loughrey 4 pens, con.City of Derry: R McLaughlin; C O’Hagan, D Graham, D Lapsley, S Logue; A McDonnell, J Miller; A Marley, C Cregan, S Duffy; G Doherty, C McColgan; T Thornton, C Huey, D Brown. Replacements: J Sayers, D Gill, A Deery, P Blennerhassett, J Beattie. Sunday’s Well: G Downey; R Kelleher, M Daly, D Hurley, W Trevor; S McCarthy, F Loughrey, M Moynihan, A Browne, N O’Donoghue; J Mulcahy, E O’Connell; C Kelliher, C O’Brien (c), S Glynn. Replacements:G O’Sullivan, D Murray, M Kelly, J Featherstone, A Lane.
Referee: R Jenkinson (IRFU)