ON the opening day of the Ulster League, Rainey Old Boys were fancied to make it three in a row against Queen’s University, but the students had other ideas.
They were streets ahead in most departments of the game until they slackened off in the last ten minutes after making several switches up front. Rainey scored a last minute try to secure a losing bonus point, but in truth, Queens should have triumphed by a much greater margin than 24-22.
A new look Queens side made it clear from the kick-off that they were not going to be rolled over easily while Rainey struggled to get out of second gear, giving the ball away and playing into the opposition’s hands.
The Old Boys can take few, if any, pluses from this game. Out-fought and out-thought for most of the eighty minutes they will hope to get this abject display out of their system before the visit of City of Derry on Saturday. Derry got off to a winning start, scoring six tries in a 36-8 victory over Ards at Judges Road.
On a perfect playing surface at Dub Lane, Queens had Rainey chasing shadows in the opening minutes and a clean break in the centre gave them 7-0 lead.
A handling error by Queens on their own 22’ gifted Clarke an equalizer three minutes later, but with cultured out-half Ritchie Mc Master pulling the strings, Queen’s threatened to run riot. McIlwaine crossed for a try wih an O’Connor penalty keeping Rainey in touch. A good scrum saved Rainey as they continued to make life difficult for themselves with a succession of erratic passes and poor decisions. After 26 minutes an aimless kick downfield allowed Queens to counter at speed with support and some weak tackling let them in at the posts. Rainey were pinned on their own line in the dying minutes of the half and were fortunate to turn round only 21-10 behind.
McMaster stretched Queens lead with a penalty before Rainey finally began to show some appetite for the contest.
Replacement centre Shiels gave them hope with a little half break and a forward surge in which O’Kane, Barker and Stewart were prominent paved the way for a try by O’Connor. This upturn in fortunes was shortlived, however, as Queens continued to dictate.
Some better defending denied Queens a bonus point and a late try from close range by captain O’Kane gave Rainey a bonus point which they hardly deserved.
Team: M.O’Connor, A.Clarke, S.Simpson, A.Mc Glaughlin, A.Rainey, G.Martin, P.Wilson, R.Hill, N.Amos, N.O’Kane, P.Stewart, R.Mc Kernan, A.Harbinson, T.Barker, C.O’Neill.
Replacements: S McCalmont (Amos 2), J.Shiels (Simpson 40), A McCluggage (Wlson 50), G McGuckin (Mc Calmont 70).
The Thirds travelled to Judges Road for the George Tees Cup competition.
The non-appearance of Armoy and Inishowen forced the organisers into rearranging the programme with six sides playing in two groups. In games of fifteen minutes each-way duration, Rainey conceded twenty points to a good Coleraine outfit and could make no impact in a scoreless second half. Their second game saw them oppose Rscommon club Creggs who picked up two soft tries to win 14-0.
Ruairi Coleman and Stephen Holgate were Rainey’s best backs on the day,whileIan Patterson won them some useful lineout ball and flanker Andrew Davis covered the ground well. Conor O’Kane made a welcome return to action after a year on the sidelines.