THE sheer weight of the Highfield pack, added to a succession of careless errors behind the scrum, proved too much for Rainey Old Boys at Woodleigh Park where the Leesiders defeated them 29-13.
Rainey never looked like winning the game, but showed admirable fighting qualities in the second half when they threatened to come away with a losing bonus point, but a wayward pass instead handed the bonus point to Highfield who should be capable of sustaining their challenge.
A stiff crossfield wind and a lively ball presented both sides with problems. After seven minutes, an impressive catch and drive, followed by a penalty, gave Highfield a great attacking position and another surge from the pack brought them an unconverted try in the corner.
A good kick and chase gave Rainey a similar opportunity, but Highfield were able to clear. The lighter Rainey forwards stood up well to the battering that the Field eight were handing out and were soon back on the attack, with O’Kane leading the way and getting good support to earn a penalty which out-half Martin kicked.
Highfield impressed up front with some great ball retention, but Rainey held on and had their own moments in favourable field positions, with their ball carriers receiving good support.
They made little impression, however, as Highfield worked a number of turnovers and in first-half injury time their own inadequacies were to make their task even harder. Highfield took full advantage when they made a mess of a tap penalty and their big forwards rumbled upfield to score a converted try.
Wilson, deputising for unavailable scrum-half Sciascia, relieved the pressure with a lovely break and Rainey were clearly gaining in confidence until yet another turnover halted their progress.
Rainey’s best bet was to get the ball wide and move the Highfield pack around the pitch, but some careless passing and handling ruined several chances.
Heaney was yellow carded for an illegal shoulder tackle which cost his side three points and Sufferin had to get back quickly to save the day as Highfield poured through again.
Highfield had a player yellow carded for killing the ball as Rainey sought to create gaps, but some dreadful mistakes put Rainey in trouble and a disputed penalty try made it 22-3 for Highfield.
By the final quarter Highfield’s big men were struggling to cover the ground and the Rainey backs began to string a few passes together. Centre Montgomery created the opening for a try by full-back Paul and three minutes later. Paul placed wing Campbell for another fine score.
With mismatches appearing now on a regular basis, Rainey tried to exploit space at every opportunity, but a slack pass put an abrupt end to their challenge. Highfield gleefully snapped up a gift try to put the issue beyond doubt and battened down the hatches in the closing minutes.
TEAM : R.Paul, A.Campbell, W.Montgomery, D.McMurray, M.McClelland, G.Martin, P.Wilson, S.McDowell, S.Sufferin, N.O’Kane, P.Boyle, N.Rankin, M.Shiels, P.Heaney, S.Hawe.
REPLACEMENTS: R.Hall (O’Kane 48) D.Dawson (Rankin 48) A.Clarke (McClelland 56) C.Donaghy (Sufferin 56) P.Stewart (Boyle 75)
Rainey’s next AIL game - Naas at home on March 3.
Saturday 25th February - Rainey v Queen’s - Ulster League - 2.30 p.m.