A late flourish from Rainey Old Boys turned a good day at the office into a very good day at Station Road where they defeated Suttonians 32-8 in a keenly contested game.
The Dublin side were not out of it by any means until Rainey scored a match-winning third try eight minutes from time and a fourth try in the last minute was the icing on the cake.
With Naas and Barnhall failing to pick up bonus points, Rainey now have a six point lead with five games remaining.
A cold wind coming in from the sea and a firm surface presented problems for the players,but with scrum-half Mc Cluggage pushing them into some good attacking positions,
Rainey started well. O’Connor set them on their way with a sixth minute penalty and eleven minutes later the pack worked a catch and drive for flanker Burns to swivel free and dive over for a try which O’Connor converted with a well-judged kick.
He then added a penalty when a neat piece of spoiling from McCluggage on his opposite number created the chance.A nd from Shiels’ restart take, McCluggage put them straight back on the attack for No.8 McGowan to pour through a lineout and send prop O’Kane over to leave Rainey 18-0 up.
Suttonians replied with a penalty, but Rainey strung together several flowing moves which would have brought them a try but for a timely Suttonians hand intervening.
In the absence of the injured Rutledge,Rainey had Boyle at tight-head with O’Kane moving across and they had their hands full in the tight. An O’Connor counter and a chip ahead from Campbell presented them with another opportunity. But a flailing boot blocked McCluggage’s pass.
Suttonians, with a decent home record, stuck at it to enjoy a good spell as Rainey started to make too many little errors.
Five minute after the break, Rainey tried to keep the ball in hand in their own half but, when Shiels was decked, Suttonians took full advantage to score.
With their big pack continuing to pose problems, they looked dangerous at times and capable of narrowing the deficit.
Rainey should have had a penalty when a miscued clearance left most of the home side offside, but the whistle did not sound and, as all the decisions seemed to go in Suttonians’ favour, the outcome remained in doubt.
But Rainey were able to pick up the tempo and a Simpson break led to Heaney driving into the 22 to win a penalty. With Suttonians losing their hooker to a yellow card and a prop down injured, Rainey elected to go to the corner only to lose control short of the line.
Barely a minute later, however, left-wing Clarke countered across the field for Campbell to break into the 22 and look infield for support which arrived in the form of McCluggage.
He linked with second-row Shiels who just managed to evade a tackle and score a vital try. With O’Connor striking the ball well out of hand,
Rainey set about looking for a try scoring bonus point which did not even merit consideration a few minutes earlier.
McGowan showed his considerable pace along the touchline after running out of defence and was unlucky when his infield pass was blocked. But Clarke and then Shiels took them to within five metres of the goal-line as fulltime approached. With an extra man in the scrum, Rainey managed to disrupt the heel sufficiently for the alert McCluggage to nip in for an opportunist score. The conversion was the last kick of the game.
TEAM : M.O’Connor, A.Campbell, D.Mc Murray, S.Simpson, M.McClelland, G.Martin, A.McCluggage, N.O’Kane, S.Sufferin, P.Boyle, T.Barker, M.Shiels, T.Burns, P.Heaney, P.McGowan. Replacements: K.Donaghy (Sufferin 48), A.Clarke (McClelland 64), R.Hall (Boyle 64), D.Dawson (Heaney 75), P.Stewart (Burns 75)
After a six year absence, Skerries are back in the AIL. Although they have lost five of their ten games, they have beaten good sides like Barnhall and Armagh and many of their defeats have been by slender margins. Their star player is former Old Belvedere full-back Conal Keane. The game has a 2.30pm kick-off.
Other fixtures: 3rd XV v Enniskillen 3, Crawford Cup, away; 4th XV v Virginia 2, home.
In the 2nd XV League, Rainey met Queens and, not for the first time this season, were a distant second. At their magnificent Dub Lane complex, a very talented student side scored seven tries in a 43-3 victory. Points scorer for Rainey, who were well below strength and just did not count up front, was out-half Dillon.
To add to their woes, Rainey were reduced to twelve men through injury,prompting the referee to blow up early.
Results: AIL 2B Suttonians 8-32 Rainey; 2nd XV League Queens 2 43-3 Rainey OB 2; Minor: South Enniskillen 3 35-19 Rainey 4.
Table Quiz is on Thursday February 28, organised by Cookstown and Magherafelt Lions, proceeds to Kilronan School, 9pm start.