Rainey OB 17
Week one of the Ulster League programme saw Rainey Old Boys make the short trip to Stevenson Park for a derby meeting with Dungannon.
Short of several regulars, Rainey again took the opportunity to give youth its chance against a home side that also had a lot of new faces from last season.
It turned out to be a very strange contest with Rainey 17-0 ahead inside the first twenty-five minutes and looking set for a big victory.
But Dungannon gradually gained a foothold in the game, using their front five to take a 22-17 lead and held on as Rainey’s attempts to counter floundered in the rain.
Rainey will be a little disappointed not to have closed out this game after starting so brightly, but will be pleased with the efforts of their debutants, many of whom are just out of school.
Their problems lay, as expected, in the scrum where Dungannon’s sheer bulk gave them a decided edge and eventually won the game for them.
Rainey were the better all-round side, but found it difficult to hold on to the ball in contact when the intermittent showers made ball retention a trickier task in the latter stages.
In perfect conditions, Rainey were ahead within three minutes with a well-placed kick from scrum-half Pyper setting Dungannon back.
The ball was swung acrossfield to Damien McMurray and another change of direction saw forwards O’Hagan and McGowan handling before Mark Gordon went over for a try which Ross McCloskey converted.
A great opportunity was missed when Rainey failed to make the most of a clear overlap on the left,but after 14 minutes they struck again when, from a Dungannon throw, young second-row prospect Murphy drove towards the posts to set up ruck ball and McGowan slipped a little pass to right-wing Mc Closkey who was helped over near the flag.
McCloskey converted with a measured, wind-assisted kick. Centre Jody McMurray then got back well when a missed tackle allowed Dungannon to break through and McCloskey made it 17-0 after 22 minutes from thirty-five yards.
Dungannon had not threatened, but gradually they began to win more ball, committing more men to the breakdown and taking control in the set piece.
A pushover try at the posts on the half hour gave them a boost and in added time they almost scored again.
Dungannon continued to rule supreme at scrum time on the resumption and Rainey’s Gordon was yellow carded.
When Rainey had two props substituted due to injury, scrums were uncontested, which would, no doubt, have irked Dungannon, but the Tyrone men added a penalty and two tries as wily scrum-half Bates kept play close to his pack.
Rainey’s back-row players Simpson and McGowan chased back to save the day when a Dungannon forward broke downfield.
Intermittent showers and a flurry of substitutions had the usual effect on proceedings and Rainey struggled to recapture their earlier form, spilling too much ball in the tackle.
One good attack forced Dungannon to carry over ball, but a penalty was conceded near the posts.
While the result matters little, Rainey will know that their scrummaging has to improve for the visit of champions Ballynahinch to Hatrick Park on Saturday.
Team: J Crowe, R McCloskey, D McMurray, J McMurray, M Gordon, T Emmerson, M Pyper, T O’Hagan, J Roe, K Donaghy, P Stewart, C Simpson, P Mc Gowan, D Dawson (c).
Replacements: A Clarke, P Boyle, R Hall, S Sufferin, G Martin.
Other results: Ards 0-56 Banbridge, Ballynahinch 12-9 Ballymena, City of Derry 10-24 Armagh, Queen’s 15-27 Malone.
In the 2nd XV League, two late tries helped Malone 2nds to a 29-16 victory over Rainey 2nds at Gibson Park. It was a high quality contest between two evenly matched young sides whose handling in the conditions was very impressive.
Full-back Moran kicked Rainey into the lead with Malone replying with a try wide out after a number of phases. Scrum-half Donaghy then kicked through twice to regain the lead, but Malone crossed again. Rainey twice came close, but had to settle for a penalty to trail 12-11 at half-time.
Rainey pressed forward after the break, but Malone stole possession to break the length of the field to move 19-11 ahead.
Rainey then scored a try which was exceptional by any standards.
From inside his own 22’, out-half Murphy placed a little kick to the wing with winger Andrews doing well to hold on to it and make ground.
McClelland and Andrews again carried on the move, offloading in the tackle to the support. Man of the Match Michael McCusker arrived on the scene to storm on and send Fowler over in the corner for a truly memorable score.
The outcome was in the melting pot at this stage and Rainey had chances of winning it, but Malone hit them with another breakaway try in a strong finish.
Rainey OB 3rds, promoted to Junior 2 because two other clubs were found to have fielded ineligible players, travelled to Fivemlietown to play Clogher Valley 2nds who had already been swamped by Rainey 2nds in pre-season. The Thirds were well below strength for this tricky task and were defeated 24-8.
Ronan McCusker played for Ulster Under 19 in Wales, but,unfortunately, sustained a knee injury which will sideline him for several weeks.
Fixtures - September 6th
1st XV v Ballynahinch (home) 2.30pm.
2nd XV v Ballynahinch IIs (home) 1pm.