Rugby: Rainey edged out by Down High

Anguish as Rainey Endowed crash out of the School's Cup after a hard fought clash with Down High. INMM0714-153ar.
Anguish as Rainey Endowed crash out of the School's Cup after a hard fought clash with Down High. INMM0714-153ar.

Rainey Endowed 5-6 Down High

In the 3rd round of the Danske Bank Schools Cup, Rainey ES 1st XV hosted Down High School.

Heavy overnight rain had left the pitch very heavy. Areas of surface water and the windy conditions were going to play a big factor in the outcome of the game.

The Rainey team had prepared well and come kick off were in a confident mood. Rainey choose to play into the wind and in the opening exchanges got the better of the visitors.

Down HS conceded some early penalties which enabled the local boys to make their way up the pitch. With about 10 minutes gone, Mark Kavanagh won a good lineout.

Anton Lupari carried the ball into the 22, from the ruck David McClelland made good ground.

When the ball became available, Kieran Lynch broke ‘blind’, feeding Rigan Sanderson and Mark Rooney. When Mark passed to Andrew Nicholl he outpaced the visiting winger, and then showed great feet to beat the full back to score a try.

The conversion was missed, but Rainey had drawn first blood and led 5-0.

Down HS came back strongly putting a lot of pressure on the Rainey defence. Using the wind, the visitors kicked for possession but the back three, particularly Mark Rooney dealt with the kicks calmly.

On 25 minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty after a Rainey infringement and their place kicker converted to reduce the score to 5-3.

Rainey’s defence was still resolute with many ‘big hits’ stopping attackers in their tracks. Calvin Smyth and the midfield pairing of Dave McClelland and Rigan Sanderson prevented many attacks.

With half time approaching, Down HS edged in front when Rainey were again penalised at a break down. The Down HS place kicker coolly slotted the kick to give them a 5-6 lead.

The half time whistle went with Rainey trailing by one point. Rainey were happy with this narrow deficit having played into the elements and not really having their line threatened by the visitors.

Confidence was high among the players at half time that they could regain the lead and go on and win the game.

Down HS, however, must have sensed this as they took the game to Rainey early in the half. This seemed to unsettle the Magherafelt boys as they struggled to get possession and territory.

The Rainey pack was eventually able to assert themselves up front. Thanks to hard work and determination from Timmy Andrews and Connor Brennan the balance of power was shifted to the home side.

Scott Campbell at scrum half was beginning to get Rainey on the front foot and Kieran Lynch and Mark Rooney were using the wind to pin Down HS back with some pinpoint kicking. Rainey had now gained the upper hand at the lineout.

Sam Hawe was throwing excellently and Mark Kavanagh was catching everything thrown to him. However, the visitors were defending stubbornly and their full back was relieving the pressure on them with some excellent line kicking.

Rory Nicholl got into the game on the end of some loose Down HS kicking; his strong running however was halted by some excellent tackling. Again and again Rainey attacked the Down HS line, but were unable to break the visiting defence.

With time running out the Down HS defence held firm and with Rainey yet again attacking the final whistle sounded with Down HS holding on to their narrow one point lead.

A hugely disappointed large home ground appreciated the efforts the Rainey side had put into the game and probably thought they deserved more from it.