NUIM Barnhall 30-20 Rainey OB
With only four of their matchday squad over the age of twenty-four, Rainey Old Boys were on a hiding to nothing when they faced second-placed NUIM Barnhall at Parsonstown.
But, despite not getting the rub of the green, they competed well, particularly in the second-half, and played some great rugby in a 30-20 defeat which sees them drop to the bottom of the table.
After some very poor displays, this result has restored a lot of pride in the jersey and given the young lads in the squad the belief that they can go on from here and give any side their fill of it.
The unavailability of several players gave an opportunity to others and they did themselves proud.
Conor O’Neill returned on the flank for his first game since damaging a shoulder more than a year ago and young Limavady lad Mark Barr came in at centre for his debut.
Competition for places should make the next selection meeting very interesting. Barnhall may have deserved their victory, but the winning margin flattered them.
Rainey were decidedly unlucky not to have come away with a losing bonus point and could even have snatched two points in a rousing finish.
After hours of incessant rain, the blue skies arrived just in time for the kick-off at The Blue Bulls’ well-appointed ground, midway between Celbridge and Leixlip.
The playing surface stood up well to the deluge, allowing both sides to move the ball about.
Barnhall were 7-0 up within four minutes, their backs looking the part as they linked well down the right.
They added a penalty as Rainey came into the picture with some tidy lineout work and better scrummaging.
The Old Boys deserved something for their efforts and should have been awarded a penalty before being pulled up for a crooked in right in front of the posts.
McCloskey pulled a shot at goal wide before second-row McCusker supported well to drive on into the home 22 and set up a simple chance.
Despite having a forward in the sin-bin, Barnhall’s backline clicked again to work another fine try and a penalty left them 18-3 ahead at the break.
A strong run from McMurray gave Rainey the start to the second-half that they wanted, but, when a super scrum earned a penalty, McCloskey again dragged his kick across the posts.
Barnhall were being pulled left and right as Rainey grew in confidance, but they then lost wing Gordon to the bin.
Rainey were dealt a severe blow on 52 minutes when, as they attacked, the ball came off the heel of a Rainey player right into the lap of a Barnhall centre whose path was clear and he duly touched down behind the posts for a killer score.
Second-row Stewart saved Rainey with a try-saving tap tackle as they emptied the bench midway through the half.
The last quarter saw Rainey dominate at the breakdown and move the ball around with great confidance.
McCloskey finished off a spell of pressure as they continued to lead their hosts a merry dance and on 64 minutes scrum-half Pyper, happily back in action after a nine week injury break, swooped to score when things went wrong behind a Barnhall scrum.
The conversion was missed and five minutes later another freak try gave Barnhall the breathing space they sought.
There was no great danger when a Rainey player turned to deal with a little kick through in the dead ball area, but he slipped and appeared to be impeded as he reached out to touch down.
He missed the ball, leaving a Barnhall player to accept a gift chance.
To their immense credit, Rainey responded to this hammer-blow by tearing into the opposition and No.8 McGowan, again outstanding on the day, crossed for another score which made another losing bonus point or two a possibility.
They almost made it as Barnhall spent the last few minutes in or around their 22.
Team: R McCloskey, J Crowe, M Barr, J McMurray, M Gordon, T Emerson, S Rutledge, A Shaw, K Donaghy, R McCusker, P Stewart, C O’Neill, J Lees, P McGowan.
Replacements: J Roe, R Squires, M Caithness, M McClelland, E Shaw.