The last few weeks have been a trying time for supporters of Rainey Old Boys as they watch their side struggle to do themselves justice.
In the absence of a host of experienced players the young lads have been thrown in at the deep end and while they have undoubted potential,simply m, do not yet have the physique to compete at this level.
And individual mistakes continue to haunt them.
With props Warwick and Young back in harness and their Ulster Ravens representatives available, Ballymena came from 13-12 behind at the interval to run out comfortable winners at Hatrick Park and remain one point ahead of Ballynahinch in what has become a two-horse race for the Ulster League title.
With the breeze in their favour, Rainey made the early running and full-back O’Connor opened the scoring after eight minutes.
Ballymena then forced Rainey back, but some great work on the ground from forwards Lees and Rutledge enabled the Old Boys to stem the tide and O’Connor made it 6-0 with a great effort from 56 yards.
The Eaton Park men were back in business when James was allowed to go from the 22’ when there appeared to be no great threat.Both sides were guilty of giving the ball away as the Ballymena scrum began to have an influence.
Rainey established a good position in the corner, but failed to secure possession. Six minutes from half-time, Ballymena again won ball on the Rainey throw and moved it just inside their own half,but when it popped out from a ruck, Rainey second-row Shiels reacted quickest to romp clear for a try at the posts.
A turnover on the visitors’ ten metre line offered Rainey a half chance, but it came to nothing and right on half-time the Ballymena pack drove a lineout maul thirty yards for Young to score.Full-back Drysdale, whose kicking was almost faultless throughout, converted from near the touchline.
Taking the first scrum of the second-half against the head, Ballymena piled on the pressure,but Rainey managed to hold out until prop O’Kane was sin-binned on 52 minutes.Two minutes later, No.8 Hamilton picked up from close range to put his side ahead.
Drysdale edged Ballymena further ahead with O’Connor replying for Rainey whose sporadic raids were short-lived due to their inability to win possession when it should have been a formality.
The effort of the home side, and especially Shiels, could not be faulted, but when Simpson was upended, Ballymena hacked through for Bailie to score.
A loose pass from O’Kane then put them in trouble with Hamilton scoring a pushover try. Replacement hookerNevin, on his debut, was yellow carded, paving the way for Spence to pick up try number six in time added on.
Rainey: M. O’Connor, J. Fleming, K. Moore, S. Simpson, N. Stirling, G. Martin, P. Kidd, S. Rutledge, M. Caithness, N. O’Kane, M. Shiels, T. Woods, M. Dawson, J. Lees, C. Mitchell. Replacements: A. Kirk, J. Cassidy, M. Nevin, C. Fowler, R. Hall.
There were wins for the Rainey U17, U15 and U13 sides.Well done to all concerned.
There is a New Year’s Eve disco function and tickets are available from Louise, Margery or from the bar.
Saturday December 28
City of Derry v Rainey OB
Derry II v Rainey II
Rainey III v Ballymena III
YOUTH RUGBY - PREMIER LEVEL : home to Ballynahinch