Ballynahinch took another step towards the First Trust Ulster League title when they beat Rainey Old Boys 22-7 at a cold and wet Hatrick Park. A victory over Malone in their final game will keep them in top spot.
Both sides were well below strength for a fixture they could have been doing without. Ballynahinch, clear leaders in Division IB of the AIL, had several regulars on representative duty, while Rainey elected to rest certain players despite having others either injured or unavailable.
The circumstances were similar when Rainey offered little resistance on ‘Hinch’s last visit to Magherafelt. This time, however, Rainey did compete against a team which has enviable strength in depth. And with a week’s rest before the AIL resumes,they can focus on the run - in and hope that their injury problems can be resolved in time.
Despite the dismal conditions, ‘Hnch moved the ball around confidently in the opening minutes and missed with a shot at goal. Rainey gradually gained a foothold in the game, but O’Connor, operating at out-half, miscued with a penalty.
Simpson then beat several men as he made good ground through the middle, but three tries in twelve minutes, one converted by Lawton, altered the picture. A misdirected lineout tap led to the first from Orr.
Two drop outs straight into touch put Rainey under further pressure and Lawton and Graham helped themselves to scores which raised their lead to 17-0. Rainey forced a five metre scrum and charged down two clearance kicks towards half-time, but the visitors held firm.
Some fine touch kicking from O’Connor gave Rainey several good field positions in the third quarter, but Rainey lacked the fire power to convert this possession into points.
‘Hinch showed them how to do it when out-half McBriar crossed to make it 22-0 after 65 minutes. The tackle count did not relent as Rainey pinned Hinch in their 22’ and their efforts were rewarded when O’Kane scored from close range following a series of scrums and penalties. O’Connor converted.
The Down men had a forward sin-binned, but he did not miss much as an injury hold-up prompted the referee to sound the final whistle a few minutes early, much to the relief of the frozen crowd who had braved the elements.
Rainey Old Boys: A. Clarke, A. Campbell, S. Simpson, M. McClelland, P. Brown, M. O’Connor, A. Donaghy, R. Hall, S. Sufferin, P. Boyle, M. Shiels, P. Stewart, A. Harbinson, T. Burns, D. Dawson. Replacements: R. Devlin (Brown 56), P. Brown (McClelland 57), K. Donaghy (Sufferin 61), N. O’Kane (Stewart 61)
In the Second XV League, Ards II beat Rainey II in heavy conditions at Hamilton Park. Rainey had to field minus most of their regulars and failed to take their chances to trail 8-3 at half-time.
Ards added three quick scores after the break as the underfoot conditions turned into a swamp and with the score at 27-3, the referee wisely brought proceedings to a close.
The Junior III game between Bangor II and Rainey III was postponed.
Ballynahinch V v Rainey Old Boys III
Rainey Old Boys IV v Armagh IV