Going into the break for the autumn internationals, Rainey Old Boys are more than happy with their start in Division 2 A of the All Ireland League.
Three wins from four games sees Richard Boyd’s men sitting in fourth place, well clear of the relegation zone and on course for a satisfactory mid-table finish.
Their home match with Co. Limerick side Bruff was always going to be a tight contest, especially after the torrential rain that fell overnight, and the Old Boys were very relieved to get the verdict on a 10-9 scoreline.
Bruff, back in Division 2A after a meteoric rise from Junior rugby to the top tier of Irish club rugby, have yet to win a game, but they are capable of testing any opposition. Content to go away with a point on this occasion, they will surely kick on from here.
A big scrum earned Bruff an early penalty which was missed. Rainey then strung together some good phases, using second-row Boyle to good effect. Prop Rutledge charged down a kick and led the chase, but was then penalised. Rainey were without forwards Heaney and McGowan and their lineout took a further knock when Mulholland had to retire after only six minutes with a back problem.
O’Connor had a go from 50 yards, but when another penalty followed, Rainey chose to play for position. Bruff held out, but then had a player yellow carded. O’Connor kicked the penalty to leave Rainey 3-0 up after 17 minutes.
Indiscipline gifted Bruff the equaliser while Rainey again opted for a tap penalty which came to nothing instead of going for the posts.
Approaching the half hour mark, they had a let-off when a Bruff forward drive ended with the ball being spilled right on the line. When Bruff moved lineout ball on halfway, a super tackle from Simpson earned his side a penalty 50 yards out, but O’Connor’s attempt just missed the target.Shortly before half-time, a drop goal attempt from Bruff full-back Bannon struck the angle of the crossbar and upright.
Rainey had a half chance when a high kick from O’Connor was not held but, after hacking ahead, they conceded a penalty.
Bruff missed two long-range shots at goal as the tough, uncompromising southerners proved to be a hard nut to crack. On 50 minutes,Michael Shiels went through a gap to force his way over for a vital try which was converted, but was yellow carded two minutes later.
A great tackle on Bannon saw the ball go clearly forward, but play was allowed to continue,resulting in a penalty which reduced the deficit to a single point.
Some good lineout play and controlled drives enabled Rainey to keep Bruff in their own half, but the scoreline remained the same as O’Connor hit a post from almost 50 yards and pushed another attempt wide.
Yet another great drive from a lineout earned the Old Boys a penalty, which they chose to kick to the corner before Simpson squirmed out of a tackle to score a try.The referee, however, deemed that he had, in fact, been held in the tackle, a decision which did not go down well with the home crowd.
As the dark clouds came rolling in and the rain started to fall, Rainey forced a penalty in front of the posts, but opted to run the clock down by kicking to the corner. Although they failed to claim clean possession, they prevented Bruff from breaking out to emerge deserving, if narrow winners.
Rainey’s next outing is on November 23 at The Mardyke where they meet UCC.
Saturday witnessed the opening of the new Gym at Rainey OB, officially called the Bobby Henderson Gym after long serving club stalwart Robert who passed away recently. The club are indebted to the Henderson family David, Jean and Ruth for their extremely generous support. The Bobby Henderson Gym will provide a long lasting reminder of Bobby and allow the club to continue its rugby development long into the future. Magherafelt District Council also contributed financially to the project and Cllr Anne Forde represented them at the opening, again the club would like to acknowledge the support received from the Council. The club have appointed Ryan Keating to manage the facility and to deliver programmes to both Youth and Senior players. His role will also be to encourage participation from under-represented groups in the area.Additionally this project has been made possible due to the generous support of Ulster Rugby, the NI Executive and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure through the ‘Promoting Equality, Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion through Sport’ Programme.