Turning round to face a strengthening wind 14-6 in arrears and having played a man short from the 14th minute, Rainey Old Boys staged a remarkable comeback to beat Queen’s University 23-21 at The Dub.
Queen’s had a great chance of taking the points deep in injury time when out-half McMaster fired wide from close range, but it would have been rough justice on the visitors whose forwards worked themselves to a standstill in the second half.
The students had no answer to the pick and go game and driving maul of the Old Boys who dug deep in the dying minutes to claim a dramatic victory.
Rainey took the gamble of trying young Jack Fleming at out-half while Queen’s had most of their representative players on duty.
O’Connor gave Rainey an early lead with a penalty and twice put them in great field positions, but they failed to come away with points. Flanker Lees was then red carded for what was deemed to be a tip tackle.
They chose at times to go with an eight man scrum and strong play from Boyle and O’Kane earned them a penalty which was missed.
Queen’s dealt easily with anything the Rainey backs had to offer and seized on a dropped ball to sweep to the other end where full-back Hall touched down behind the posts.
Rainey bounced back, but had a try at the posts ruled out by the referee who felt that he had got in the way of a would-be tackler.
With Fritz struggling with a rib injury and O’Kane groggy following a heavy collision, Rainey fell 14-3 behind when a loose pass proved costly, enabling flanker Hooks to finish off another breakaway.
An O’Connor penalty just before half-time left Rainey 14-6 in arrears.
The first scrum of the second half gave Rainey a free kick from which scrum-half Kidd launched a move down the wing. When it broke down, Simpson had to scuttle back to get the touchdown at the other end.
Queen’s soon realised that an easy home win was not going to be a foregone conclusion.
With prop O’Kane an inspirational leader, the Rainey forwards put in a huge shift and gradually took over. Since a kicking game was not an option on the day, they kept the ball in hand with an impressive driving display.
A miscued clearance allowed O’Connor to reduce the deficit after 53 minutes and four minutes later the forwards and backs combined for O’Kane to crash over near the posts.
Rainey’s lead was short-lived, however.
When Fritz mishandled on his 22’, Queen’s moved scrum ball out to centre McIlwaine who showed his class by slicing through unopposed to leave McMaster another easy conversion.
A front of the lineout move took Rainey back into the Queen’s 22’ and a monumental effort was rewarded when second-row Shiels crossed for a great try.
O’Connor hammered over a vital conversion into the wind to amazingly put Rainey 23-21 ahead.
As injuries began to take their toll, Rainey had to make several little switches which included Martin moving to out-half and No. 8 Mc Gowan patrolling the right-wing where his ball carrying came in handy on numerous occasions.
McMaster saw a beautifully struck kick from halfway just shave an upright and went close again with another effort.
Shiels did well to steal lineout ball as the game moved into time added on, but they conceded a penalty at a ruck as they worked their way out of defence.
McMaster missed a glorious chance and was off the mark again when, on the intervention of the touch judge, a Rainey penalty was reversed.
More than eight minutes of injury time had elapsed when Mc Gowan dealt with a dangerous situation and won his side a relieving penalty.
Rainey: G Martin, A Campbell, S Simpson, D McMurray, M O’Connor, J Fleming, P Kidd, S Rutledge, G Fritz, N O’Kane, P Boyle, M Shiels, C Mitchell, J Lees, P McGowan.Replacement: S Mulholland, P Heaney, A Kirk, K Moore.
In the Second XV League, Rainey beat Ards 17-0 at Hatrick Park. They played some good rugby and really should have scored more.
When Ards did threaten, the home defence stood strong. They ran in three very good tries, two of them in the first half. Full-back Cassidy finished off a lovely move, Dillon converting. Wing Irwin grabbed the second and doubled his tally in the last play of the match.
Old Wesley v Rainey OB
Rainey Old Boys IV v