FOR senior clubs, the serious part of the season gets under way on Saturday with the start of the AIL when Rainey Old Boys entertain Ards.
Rainey received just the boost they needed when two ties in the final quarter enabled them to come from behind to beat Malone 29-20 in the Senior League.
Ards have struggled in recent seasons and their young side have found the going tough as they strive to halt the slide under coach Mervyn Tweed. But they defeated Instonians 11-10 at Hamilton Park last week and must not be underestimated. Rainey hope to have a full hand to select from and must be fancied to open the campaign with a win. The new teams in Division 2B are Boyne, Cashel, Sligo and Armagh.
Rainey were short of forwards Hawe, Heaney, Rankin and Shiels against Malone, but made all the running in the first six minutes.
The Cregagh side soon cashed in on a Rainey mistake to go 7-0 up against the run of play. Rainey replied in style, moving it wide to McClelland and back across field where centre McMurray tidied up a loose pass to earn a penalty which Martin kicked from close range.
Both sides made unforced errors before Martin landed a low long range effort into the breeze. Bang on half-time, Malone moved 10-6 ahead with a penalty.
The Rainey pack did well to get under the restart kick and win a penalty which Martin converted with an excellent strike. They then moved the ball smartly to create an overlap, but Stewart’s hands let him down.
A great tackle by full-back Paul halted a dangerous Malone raid and a crooked throw thwarted the Gibson Park outfit when they had established a promising field position.
Play swung to the other end where prop O’Kane countered to win a penalty kick which gave Rainey a 53rd minute lead. Centre McBride stood out with some wholehearted tackling, but a penalty left Rainey trailing once more.
Malone almost escaped down the right when Rainey turned over ball yet again, but when Stewart caught McBride out with an offload in midfield, they were powerless to prevent Malone romping through for a gift score.
Malone then had a forward yellow carded for interfering when Rainey tried to take a quick free and a kick to the corner, followed by a catch and drive, resulted in a try for hooker Sufferin.
The in-form Martin converted from a wide angle to further raise the spirits of the home crowd. The Malone pack retained possession well as they opted to keep it tight until they conceded a penalty which Martin pushed past the post.
On 77 minutes it was Malone’s turn to hand Rainey a soft try when McBride intercepted on halfway to score at the posts. A fine take by Boyle helped Rainey to regain a foothold in enemy territory and Martin tagged on another penalty in the closing minutes. Needing a score to earn a losing bonus point, Malone worked their way into the corner, but a Dawson hand denied them their chance.
Team : R.Paul, M.McClelland, J.McBride, D.McMurray, A.Clarke, G.Martin, P.Sciascia, S.Mc Dowell, S.Sufferin, N.O’Kane, P.Stewart, P.Boyle, A.Harbinson, D.Dawson,R.Mc Kernan.
Replacements: R.Hall (O’Kane 63) K.Donaghy (Sufferin 70)
Rainey O.B. 2 14 - 36 Mallone 2
At second fifteen level, Rainey were able to field a reasonably strong pack, but gave the opposition far too much room behind the scrum when Malone beat them 36-14 at Hatrick Park. Quick hands and pace brought Malone the opening try, but Colm Heaney barged his way over from a penalty with Irvine converting.
Rainey had the better of the set scrums, but were simply not good enough in the backs as the visitors added two more tries to lead 17-7 at the break.
Poor defence enabled Malone to run through from the tail of a lineout for another soft try.
Rainey continued to put themselves under added pressure by giving the ball away too easily and Malone could scarcely believe their luck as two more tries made it 36-7.A late flurry of attacking culminated in a try for No.8 McCrea, making his first start of the season. Heaney added the points.
Rainey O.B. 4 49-0 Cavan 2
Birthday boy Michael Lee scored the first try of his blossoming career as Rainey opened their Minor League-South campaign with a facile 49-0 home win over Cavan 2 who were game enough to travel despite being well under strength.
Seven of the nine tries came from the backs with Lowbridge getting one and Taylor, O’Neill and Devlin helping themselves to two apiece.
No.8 Campton picked up a deserved score on his comeback. Devlin managed two conversions. It was a bonus to have Bob Paul available again after baby-sitting commitments. His vast experience is an enormous help to the younger players in the squad.
Results - Saturday 24th September
1st XV 29-10 Malone
2nd XV 14-36 Malone 2 2nd XV League
4th XV 49-0 Cavan 2 Minor : South
Fixtures for Saturday 1st October
1st XV v ARDS home 2.30 p.m.
2nd XV v LIMAVADY home
3rd XV v BANBRIDGE 4 away