Banbridge 29 Rainey OB 10
After making a very satisfactory start to life in Division 2A, three successive defeats has left Rainey Old Boys looking anxiously over their shoulders at the teams below them.
When the AIL programme resumes on January 11th they face some difficult fixtures and they have plenty of work to do between now and then to restore morale and get injured players fit.
Buoyed by lowering Ballymena’s colours at Eaton Park last time out, Banbridge, capitalised on Rainey errors to labour to a 29-10 victory, a late try earning them a bonus point.
While Rainey’s kicking game has contributed to their slide and again put them under unnecessary pressure on occasions at Rifle Park, it was their inability to look after the ball well enough that left them with little hope of clawing their way back into the match after a terrible start.
Time and again their poor handling skills handed possession straight back to the opposition who owned the ball for most of the second half.
Faced with the prospect of being without hooker George Fritz for some time, Rainey found themselves trailing 7-0 within four minutes of the kick-off.
Moving lineout ball just inside their own half, Banbridge punished a missed tackle in midfield to score at the posts.
Rainey replied with some promising build-up play, but spoiled their good work by persistently conceding penalties in attacking positions.
They defended stoutly when Banbridge went for a catch and drive try, but promptly handed the initiative back to the Down side with a careless 22 drop-out which saw them penalised at the resultant scrum in front of the posts.
On the half hour, McGowan released Heaney who burst up the middle over halfway with his support taking it on into the 22, but again the whistle brought their progress to an abrupt halt.
They did, however, manage to pinch lineout ball which they moved wide for left-wing Stirling to reduce the deficit to 10-5. But another silly penalty presented Banbridge with the platform to exert pressure and their patience brought them a try four minutes from the break, leaving them twelve points ahead.
Rainey put themselves under immediate pressure by putting the restart drop-out dead and had to absorb almost constant pressure for the next half hour as they just could not hold on to the ball when they did manage to get a sniff of it.
They had emptied their bench before Banbridge stretched their lead with their third try after 72 minutes. The Banbridge hooker was sin-binned as Rainey reached the 22 for the first time in the second half and they had a rare moment to smile about when they moved it wide for Stirling to again finish well.
But when Rainey failed to deal with the restart, Banbridge poured through for a gift try which gave them an unexpected bonus point.
Team: M O’Connor, A Campbell, S Simpson, D McMurray, N Stirling, G Martin, P Kidd, S Rutledge, M Caithness, N O’Kane, P Boyle, M Shiels, J Lees, P Heaney, P McGowan.
Replacements : A Kirk, K Donaghy, J Fleming, C Mitchell, R Hall.