THERE can be no more daunting prospect in Ulster rugby than a trip to Ballynahinch.
So,it was with understandable apprehension that an under-strength Rainey Old Boys travelled to their hilltop fortress for an Ulster League fixture on Saturday.Hinch themselves were below strength, opting to give a number of emerging players a start, but made the most of a dramatic Rainey collapse to coast home on a 31-10 scoreline.
This result will not cost Rainey to lose any sleep, but their capitulation in the last quarter will give coaches Campbell and Boyd plenty of food for thought
.Ahead at the interval and only two points behind midway through the second half ,they collapsed like a set of dominoes to hand the Mountview Road men a bonus point.
An injury to full-back Paul caused them to make a series of switches and from then on there was only one side in it.
Rebuilding morale before Saturday’s cup match with holders Dungannon is a priority, while plenty of work on the set pieces needs done before the start of the AIL.
In perfect conditions, Rainey attacked from the off, but Martin pushed an early shot at goal past the post. Another infringement presented them with a more difficult chance, but, from almost halfway, hooker Heaney proved equal to the task.
On the ten minute mark, a Ballynahinch clearance was fielded on the run by Sciascia, who countered along the touchline before transferring to prop O’Kane. The big tight-head headed for the line to send supporting flanker Heaney over for a lovely try, which Martin converted with an equally fine kick.
Heaney unfortunately picked up a shoulder injury when challenged as he touched down and his lineout presence was missed as Rainey found possession harder to come by thereafter.
No.8 and captain Graham led the Hinch revival, but Rainey defended well and forced a turnover to clear their lines. But a crooked feed decision put them under pressure again and when a clear knock-on was not spotted by the referee, Graham opened his side’s account.
Hawe did well to get back when a break by left-wing Ferris and a kick to the corner put Rainey in further trouble, but a missed touch allowed Hinch to test the Rainey defence again until they conceded a penalty.
Three minutes into the second half, Paul stopped Ferris with a super tackle, but a wayward clearance invited Hinch to counter with centre Harte crossing at the posts.
Out-half McAleese added the points to put them 12-10 ahead. They almost intercepted in midfield and threatened again when they created an overlap on the left. Wing Wilson saved Rainey on this occasion by getting back to intercept a pass.
O’Kane raised Rainey’s hopes of regaining the lead when he burst into the Hinch 22’, but Sciascia’s reverse flick did not go to hand. With former Malone and Ulster U.20 lock Nathan Rankin showing up well on his debut, Rainey spent five minutes in the Hinch 22’,but their ball retention and kicking game continued to let them down.
And from being still in the game with a shout, they found themselves on the receiving end in a nightmare last ten minutes. They failed to react when Hinch booted the ball downfield and were awarded a penalty, leaving Mc Aleese to canter in unopposed at the posts.
Second-row Stewart could certainly not be accused of throwing in the towel as Hinch struck again, aided by some woeful tackling.
And just to put the tin hat on an abject final quarter display, Rainey made ground through Montgomery and Clarke only to throw out a long cross field pass which was intercepted leaving them without cover.
TEAM : R.Paul,P.Wilson,M.McClelland,W.Montgomery,A.Clarke,G.Martin,P.Sciacia,P.Boyle,C.Heaney,N.O’Kane,N.Rankin,P.Stewart,R.McKernan,S.Hawe,P.Heaney.
REPLACEMENTS : G.McGuckin (Heaney 10) S.Sufferin (McGuckin 53) D.McMurray (Paul 53) R.Murray (McKernan 69) K.Donaghy (C.Heaney 69)
FIXTURES for Sat 10th Sept.
1st XV v DUNGANNON Senior Cup home 2.30 p.m.
2nd XV v BANBRIDGE 2 League home