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Derry rally to deny Rainey fightback

By Ronnie Ingram

City of Derry, despite having three players yellow carded at the same time, managed to curtail a Rainey comeback and pull away in the final quarter for a 29-17 Ulster Senior League victory.

Neither team is really involved in the title chase as it is now virtually a contest between Ballymena and Ballynahinch, who have opened up a large gap at the top of the table.

The Eaton Park side, by virtue of their 62-3 win at Instonians and the fact that the Dungannon/Hinch game was postponed, have 36 points from eight games while Hinch have 30 from seven.

Ballymena have only three fixtures to fulfil and the deciding game will probably be their crucial meeting at Hinch on February 22.

There was plenty of open and entertaining rugby at Judge's Road on Saturday, where Derry recorded their third win of the season.

Derry were soon in their stride with a try after six minutes as Stephen Ferguson powered over for Neil Burns to convert.

"Paul McFeely, Gareth Beatty and Cathal Cregan were immense at our breakdown with back rowers Ferguson, Corr and Baird also putting in a lot of work" said Derry's CMO Moss Dineen.

"We attacked after 24 minutes and a quick ball to Chris Cooper found winger Brennan outside who dashed in. Mark O'Connor came back with a penalty but we made it 19-3 by the interval when we turned over Rainey possession for McFeely to thunder in."

Rainey came back to reduce the deficit to two points.

"Rainey attacked from the start and we had Jack Caithness yellow carded after three minutes and one minute later, as we attempted to stem the tide, Chris Copper was also binned. The pressure led to a penalty try converted by O'Connor but then just after Sam McAuley was brought on he was also sidelined in the 11th minute so we were down to 12."

Derry had to produce some gallant tackling but the reduction in numbers told again when O'Connor touched down and goaled to make it 19-17.

When Derry were back to their full compliment, they regained the advantage and it was one way traffic. They had three five metre scrums before Ferguson picked up and dived over.

Results: Ards 0 Malone 59, Belfast Harlequins 21 Banbridge 15, City of Derry 29 Rainey 17, Instonians 3 Ballymena 62, Queen's 16 Armagh 13. Dungannon/Ballynahinch postponed.

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