Thomond RFC 14pts – City of Derry RFC 27pts
Match Report by; Moss Dineen
City of Derry Rugby Club travelled to Liam Fitzgerald Park, Moyross, Limerick to play Thomond RFC on Saturday last for what was a must win fixture in their third last All Ireland League Division 2B fixture of the season. Derry needed victory to condemn Thomond to relegation but more importantly to put distance between themselves and second from bottom team Bective Rangers because the team in that position at the end of the season has to enter a playoff for Divisional survival.
City of Derry got the desired victory in Limerick with a four try bonus point courtesy of two tryís from Jason Bloomfield and one each from Jack Beatty and Matthew Kilgore. Bective and other strugglers Skerries RFC both lost at the weekend so the Judges Road men can now smell survival. Derryís bonus point victory sees them rise to seventh in the league three points ahead of Skerries and five point in front of Bective with two fixtures remaining. City of Derry are at home to Armagh on Saturday week and away to Skerries on Easter Saturday. Bective are at home to Thomond in two weekís time and away to Armagh in the last game of the season, Bective have a better points difference than Derry so safety for the Judges Road men is still in the balance and will go down to the last game of the season.
The weather was perfect for rugby in Limerick on Saturday with glorious sunshine as the breeze favoured Thomond in the first half. The importance of the game to both teams and any nervousness was quickly dispelled as the early exchanges saw ambition from two teams as victory was everything. Thomond had the better of early possession and capitalised with a good try from Diarmuid Ryan by the posts and Alan Wallace converted to give the home team a 7pts to nil lead with ten minutes gone. Derry were not phased as their pack set about the task of dismantling and nullifying the home set of forwards. Derry had a couple of quick scrum penalties from the kick off and went for touch inside the Thomond half but eventually had to settle for a 30m penalty from Neil Burns on thirteen minutes to reduce the deficit to 7pts to 3pts.
Derry were beginning to find a rhythm to their play with their forwards working hard through their outstanding back row of Joe Dunleavy, Stephen Corr and Richard Baird as they were well supported by second rowers Chris Cooper and Adam Bratton. Derry received a massive blow on nineteen minutes when they lost their outstanding centre David Graham with a hamstring injury as he was attacking inside the Thomond half. Terry McMaster made a quick game defining decision in moving Richard Baird to centre, Adam Bratton to back row and brought Gerard Doherty from the bench to second row where he played his best game ever for Derry. The Judges Road men were found slightly unorganised on twenty-three minutes when Thomond attacked from mid field through the centre of Derryís defence and scored with a try from Pa Ryan and with Wallace converting their tails were up as they led by 14pts to 3pts.
Derry upped their game and their scrum and line out dominated possession with their front row of Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan and Sam Duffy proving once again that there are the best scrummaging front row in the league with Sam Duffy probably the best Tight Head Prop in the AIL. The quality possession from the Derry pack saw Jason Bloomfield at scrum half and Richard McCarter at out half pulling the strings and asking serious questions of Thomondís defence. Bloomfield was varying play with superb kicking and darting runs that kept the Thomond back row honest. McCarter found Ian Bratton coming into the line at half way on twenty-seven minutes and as he drew his man he passed to winger Jack Beatty outside him who sprinted in from 25 meters and with Neil Burns converting Derry were right back in the game at 14pts to 10pts down.
That Beatty try was like an injection of confidence for Derry as Chris Cooper soared like a Salmon to catch the kick off and set the Judges Road men back on all-out attack. Joe Dunleavy, Stephen Corr and Adam Bratton were now carrying ball forward and linking nicely with their backs as Matthew Kilgore at centre and Neil Burns at full back were coming more into the game. Derry created go forward ball on thirty-four minutes through Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan and Adam Bratton as Stephen Corr found Jason Bloomfield on the half way line with a crowd scene in front of him. Bloomfield showed his class as he would have found room in a crowded telephone box, he produces a couple of dummies and used Ian Bratton outside as a decoy and with a skip and a side step he was gone to run in from 40 meters to score behind the posts and with Neil Burns converting Derry were in front by 17pts to 14pts a lead they carried to half time.
Derry started the second half with the breeze in their backs and on the attack straight away with a couple of powerful drives from Gerard Doherty that laid down a marker for the rest of the half. The half was just four minutes old when Man of the Match Jason Bloomfield made a snappy break following good possession from Sam Duffy, Chis Cooper and Joe Dunleavy. Bloomfield moved the ball cleverly to the right 25 meters out and with two men outside he passed to Matthew Kilgore who powered over the line for an unconverted and Derry were flying at 22pts to 14pts up.
The Judges Road men were now in control as Eoin Ferry replaced Ross Harkin in the front row and Chris Lamberton came into the back row to replace Stephen Corr both for injuries. The Derry scrum were all powerful and Derry scored again when Jason Bloomfield picked up quick scrum ball on sixty minutes and with Thomond on the back foot and their back row tied in he skipped in for an unconverted try and the bonus point as Derryís lead was 27pts to 14pts. Derry had all the pressure now as they knocked on the Thomond door with all the play in the opposition 22, they had a few gilt edge chances to put the game to be but all were squandered.
Thomond played their way out of Defence as their season slipped away they tried to produce a sting from the tail like a dying wasp. Their hopes rose as Richard Baird was sent to the bin for a shoulder tackle on sixty-seven minutes and further pressure saw Jason Bloomfield sent to the bin for not retreating 10 meters at penalty time. Derry were down to thirteen men and it was now Thomondís chance to go into all-out attack. The Derry defence was outstanding as to a man their put their bodies on the line unconditionally as wave after wave of Thomond attacks were held at bay. Sam Duffy, Joe Dunleavey, Chris Cooper Adam Bratton, Cathal Creggan and Gerard Doherty led from the front as crunching tackles were the order of the day as Thomond struggled to get that decisive try to put them back in the game.
Richard Baird was back in the game with three minutes plus injury time remaining, it was still all hands to the pumps as Thomond were held up over the line a couple of times The Derry scrum was still producing and for the final ten minutes Derry were camped on their own line and both teams were out on their feet as the referee blew the final whistle. City of Derry had achieved what they came to Limerick for and the journey home was made in celebration mode. Armagh are next up for Derry on Saturday week and with Armagh second in the league just a point behind leaders Greystones and vying for promotion there should be a bumper crow at Judges Road.
City of Derry RFC Team V Thomond RFC; Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan, Sam Duffy, Adam Bratton, Chris Cooper, Joe Dunleavy Stephen Corr, Richard Baird, Jason Bloomfield, Richard McCarter, Jack Beatty, Matthew Kilgore, David Graham, Ian Bratton, Neil Burns, Replacements; Eoin Ferry, Gerard Doherty, Chris Lamberton, CJ Cregan, Matt Cammeron.