Cookstown RFC’s never-say-die attitude was fully tested during to their visit to Rainey Old Boys on Saturday.
Trailing by 12 points with ten minutes left on the clock, the boys dug deep to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The team took to the field with a make shift backline featuring only three regulars, thus debuts were handed to wingers Ali Jaafar and Fran Loughran while regular forwards Ryan McLoughlin and Kevin McSorley slotted into a very much make shift centre pairing.
The game kicked off with Cookstown applying pressure on the Rainey line. It became evident early on that the Cookstown pack would dominate the set pieces whilst the Rainey had the more cohesive and potent backline. Hard running from the Cookstown loose forwards created a number of try scoring opportunities which sadly went a begging as a result of some poor handling. After a fifteen minute spell in the Rainey 22 Cookstown only had three points to show courtesy of Paul O’Neill’s boot.
The next 20 minutes were played in the Cookstown 22 as it was the Rainey’s turn to apply some pressure. Their number 12 in particular doing some damage. A lapse in concentration resulted in the Rainey out half going under the posts to give his team a half time lead of 7-3.
The second half was quite a scrappy affair with Cookstown conceding unforced errors which provided good counter attacking opportunities for the Rainey. One turnover on the half way line saw Rainey kick deep into the Cookstown dead ball area, an unfortunate bounce saw the attacking wingers touch the ball down for a five pointer. The conversion was missed however a misdemeanour in the Cookstown defence allowed the Rainey to make amends and add three points to give his team a seemingly unassailable 15-3 lead.
A few choice words from Captain Liam Currie and Vice-captain Stephen Rea seemed to spark Cookstown into life as the pack started to take the ball to their opposition. Out half Ciaran Currie started to thrive off the quick ball he was receiving; this gave him the opportunity to put a kick through the Rainey rush defence for loose forward Martin Devlin to collect and go over under the posts. Paul O’Neill converted to leave the scores 15-10.
Into the last fifteen minutes Cookstown’s backs and forwards were repelled by excellent defending; time was running out. Fortunately Cookstown’s relentless pressure resulted in a yellow card for the Rainey following a number of cynical penalties at the breakdown. With minutes left on the clock Cookstown opted to kick to the corner. The resultant lineout was mauled over the Rainey line with Rea getting the touch down.
With the game locked at 15 each, seconds left on the clock and a difficult touchline conversion a draw looked to be a cert. However Paul O’Neill stepped up to audaciously slot over the conversion to hand the game to Cookstown.
Jubilant scenes of man love soon followed the final whistle as Cookstown got their just rewards for the self-belief they showed.
Team Captain Liam Currie expressed his delight at the players determination:
“We came here with a makeshift backline and had every excuse to lose the game. However I challenged the boys not to defy the odds and they did just that,” he said.
Team: Currie, Rea, Mallon, Stinson, Hagan, Boone, Devlin, Reah, O’Neill, Currie, Jaafar, McLoughlin, McSorely, McKeown, Loughran, Brown, Quinn.
Training continues on Thursday night at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena, 7pm sharp. Next game is at home on Saturday 23 November against Ballyshannon RFC.