After their recent defeat at the hands of City of Derry in the Ulster League, Rainey Old Boys were intent on putting up a better fight on the opening day of the AIL programme.
But, while they can take some positives from a 42-21 score line, they had to play second fiddle for long periods to a very strong side which is likely to be in the mix come the end of the season.
With Michael Pyper and Gavin Martin both ruled out, Rainey had to switch Alan McCluggage to out-half and bring in Ulster U19 scrum-half Peter Kidd. The youngster did very well on his debut. Further changes were necessary when a late hit forced McCluggage to retire towards the end of the third quarter. To their credit, Rainey did not lie down and came a gonisingly close to grabbing a last minute try which would have earned them a bonus point.
In perfect conditions at a sunsplashed Judges Road, It was one-way traffic in the first ten minutes as Rainey struggled to get their hands on the ball and, despite some great tackling, they trailed 10-0 to a second minute try and a penalty. But after 15 minutes Rainey were back in the contest when some slick passing on the short side created a chance and an inside pass sent Damien McMurray through for a lovely try which O’Connor converted.
Three minutes later, they were amazingly in front. A Simpson tackle led to a turnover in midfield and a chip ahead forced Derry to hack to touch. From the lineout,a catch and drive resulted in a try for flanker McGowan. O’Connor again converted
McCluggage, showing some neat touches in his enforced role, had a kick charged down, but O’Connor saved the day with a fine counter. Derry tried to put width on the ball at every opportunity, but some excellent back-row defence kept them in check and earned a penalty which was missed.
Simpson then threatened when another good tackle produced a gap, but Derry worked their way down to the Rainey 22’ where Mc Gowan stole lineout ball only to become isolated and concede a penalty which the majestic McCarter kicked. A bout of aerial tennis presented Rainey with chances of moving downfield, but they missed the boat and McCarter kicked a penalty after ghosting through into the home 22’. With Rutledge in the bin, Rainey came under pressure again straight from the restart and, despite a loose pass, Derry scored a soft try right on half-time.
A disputed decision added to Rainey woes and a long clearance gave the Derry pack the chance to go through for another try. Rainey nearly broke away when a Derry attack broke down and Mulholland sent O’Connor clear, but his scoring pass to Campbell was just too high. On 67 minutes, Derry made absolutely sure of the points with their fourth try and added another five minutes later when Kidd released his backs with a beautiful pass only for a handling error to gift the opposition a score.
Forwards Heaney and Shiels gave their all as Rainey dominated the closing minutes. A second Derry player was yellow carded and wing Stirling went in for Rainey’s third try to give them an outside chance of snatching an unlikely bonus point.
In time added on,they drove at the Derry line several times before the ball was spread but, with a clear overlap out wide, O’Connor was unable to gather a bouncing ball.
Rainey: M. O’Connor, N. Stirling, D. McMurray, S. Simpson, J. McMurray, A. McCluggage,P. Kidd, S. Rutledge, S. Sufferin, N. O’Kane, P. Boyle, M. Shiels, P. McGowan, C. Mitchell, P. Heaney. Replacements: A. Kirk, A. Campbell, M. Caithness, S. Mulholland, C. Barclay.
Division 2A results
Ballymena 37 Galwegians 14
Bruff 13 Barnhall 33
Cashel 26 Banbridge 13
Wesley 54 Old Crescent 15
Queens 27 Highfield 22
Seapoint 27 Bective 24
UUC 22 Naas 28