Rainey Old Boys suffered their first Ulster League defeat of the season at home to Banbridge on Saturday.
Without several established players, it was an opportunity for a number of new recruits to stake their claim for a starting place in the All Ireland league team.
However the lack of experience in the squad meant that a very new looking Rainey side never really got going with periods of excellent play let down by some poor defence which ultimately means that the Magherafelt men now share top spot in the league with Ballynahinch.
Rainey got the first points on the board with a penalty on 12 minutes, and this was quickly cancelled out by the Banbridge kicker three minutes later.
The game then began to take a bit of shape, but both defences looked solid enough for the first quarter, until the away side’s number 8 gathered a loose ball in the middle of the park and easily skipped past 3 very soft attempts to tackle, before drawing the last defender and popping to the supporting wing in text-book style to set up the opening try of the game on 20 minutes.
Five minutes later, after a period of decent Rainey pressure in the Banbridge 22, Rainey’s alert No.8 Stephen Mulholland gathered another loose ball and saw the opposition’s defence open up to leave a clear jog-in for one of the easiest scores the big back-rower will get this season.
With Rainey now building a bit of momentum, this was followed on the half-hour mark when Rainey centre Jody McMurray made a mesmeric run from inside his own half, showing that deceptive turn of pace he has, before passing to Stu Simpson, who was also well supported by scrum-half Jack Fleming who took a simple pass to finish off a terrific try and put Rainey in front.
However, from that point the home side switched off and when decisions continued to go against them Rainey’s lack of experience really started to surface and the away side started to take a grip on the game. Their ability to capitalise very quickly on loose ball, or turn-over possession earned them an easy try on 35, followed by two penalty’s either side of the half-time interval, and then two more very soft tries on 47 minutes and 52 minutes, as the game quickly escaped the Hatrick park men.
In the last quarter, Rainey managed to pick themselves up and close the gap when they scored a try from a quick tap 5 metres out, and then a few minutes later another great break and link-up between Stuart Simpson and Jody McMurray saw the Rainey 12 stopped a yard out from the line.
They did, however, get another try in the last minute, with Fritz finishing off a great move which saw backs and forwards linking seamlessly in the opposition 22’ unfortunately it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. However the side still share top spot in the league with Ballynahinch courtesy of the 2 bonus points they collected.
Rainey Old Boys: Rutledge, Fritz, Kirk, Barclay, Woods , Sheils, Mulholland, Mitchell, Fleming, Simpson, Stirling, J McMurray, Moore, Campbell, O’Connor. Subs: Irwin, M Dawson, Kidd, Sufferin, Hall.
Rainey must wait until October 26 for their next match away to Old Crescent.