Two tries in two minutes mid-way through the second half put paid to Bann’s chances of building on their opening day Ulster League win at Ards.
In an evenly matched game up to that point, Bann probably had had slightly the more promising scoring opportunities. But one slick City of Derry move and one piece of slovenly defence by Bann left the home side 12 points in arrears, a deficit they never looked like making up in the 22 minutes that remained.
The opening quarter of the match was pock-marked by penalties as both sides fell foul of the match official at ruck time. Kickers Andrew Semple and Bann’s Adam Doherty exchanged successful conversions in the 2nd and 3rd minutes. The visitors’ scrum-half then kicked his side in front again after seven minutes but Doherty’s effort to redress the balance from 40 metres range fell short.
The winger did however put his side in front mid-way through the first half when he latched onto a wayward Derry kick and out-paced the defence on a 40 metre sprint to the try line, his attempt to add the extras not having the ‘legs’.
As Bann continued to infringe Shandon Scott paid the price, picking up a yellow card for a ‘team penalty’ after No 8 Richard Baird’s run off the tail of a lineout had the Bann defence scrambling to secure their line. Semple knocked over the simple kick to edge his side 8-9 in front.
Two minutes later the sides were numerically level, with David Funston side-lined for 10 minutes for an offence at a ruck. Bann used the penalty to set up a lineout on the ‘22’ and the resultant driving maul almost let scrum-half Scott Nelson in at the corner flag.
Doherty was off target with two more kickable penalties and John Porter’s break almost created a second score for the home side. But by the interval they were still that single point in arrears.
Three minutes into the second period Andrew Morrison’s break down the right flank earned a 5-metre scrum for the home side. Bann were penalised at the set piece but turned over the subsequent lineout and when Derry infringed at the ruck Doherty stepped up to kick his side into an 11-9 lead.
Prop Sam Duffy was the unlikely initiator of what was the best try of the game. He burst through close to a ruck outside the home’22’, but it was his deft off-load to David Ferguson followed by the hooker’s similarly skilful link-up with Ross Scott, that put the flanker in at the posts for a try which Semple inevitably converted.
Bann clearly hadn’t learned their lesson from Baird’s storming run off the tail in the first half as he repeated the trick to run in unopposed for his team’s second try, with the impressive Semple extending the lead with the conversion.
Bann’s riposte, a Stephen Irvine try off a quickly taken penalty, converted by Adam Doherty in the 77th minute, came too late to offer hope of a home win.
Bann coach Daniel Soper said: “It was a step backwards when we consider how we played against ‘Hinch (in the pre-season friendly) and Ards. The players are as disappointed as anyone – they know that they didn’t perform anywhere near their capability.
“Their second try was a defensive system error and that can be corrected. Maybe it’s good to get a performance like that out of the way and hopefully get a reaction in our next game.”