At half-time at Stevenson Park, most observers would have taken Rainey Old Boys to just get the verdict over Dungannon in their crucial UBL game.
With an extra man and a gentle breeze in their favour, Rainey had every chance of grabbing a vital win, but lost their shape and discipline in the third quarter to end up chasing the game and picking up a mere one point for a meaningless losing bonus point.
A 20-14 defeat means that they must now win at Barnhall this week to keep alive their slim hopes of avoiding the play-offs.
Rainey made a confident opening with a high kick from scrum-half Wilson earning them ground and a quickly-taken free kick giving wing Mc Lean an early chance.
Full-back McIlroy missed a penalty before Armstrong had two efforts in quick succession for Dungannon. With in-form second-row Barker leading the way and getting great support from O’Hagan and Roe, Rainey played some nice rugby, but on occasions lacked composure and, as usual gave away far too many penalties at the breakdown when they had the opposition on the rack.
A poor pass from No.8 McMurray spoiled the momentum as they probed down the right before a clear chance down the left was wasted when prop Rutledge, returning from injury after a long absence from the team, held on too long with pace outside him.
Things then started to go wrong for Rainey. Armstrong opened the scoring for Dungannon and Rainey lost centre Derby and flanker Winters through injury in quick succession.
Determined play from McClelland and Barker set them on the front foot again for McIlroy to bring the scores level. On the half hour, Dungannon came close after hacking on and countering from a sloppy clearance.
The first period had a bizarre ending. Dungannon scrum-half Treanor was red carded and Rainey centre McMurray shown a yellow card following an incident which most spectators did not see. Rainey missed a shot at goal just before the whistle.
Dungannon were fortunate to have the experienced James Bates to bring in as they regrouped and it was never obvious that they were a player short.
A Rainey mistake gave them the boost they needed. From a lineout deep in Dungannon territory, an overcooked throw handed possession to Dungannon who stormed through the middle with the cavalry arriving to link well to take play across field. Rainey did well to hold out, but another surge resulted in a try for No.8 James McMahon, converted by Armstrong.
To add insult to injury, Rainey had prop Donaghy yellow carded to negate their numerical advantage.
Rainey were now looking a ragged outfit, but bounced back with an unconverted try. McLean launched a counter from the touchline by finding Barker who drove straight ahead to hand on to Ulster Academy prop O’Hagan. He took it on into the 22’ where McIlroy placed a lovely little grubber towards the left wing where Wilson got up to touch down for a fine try.
In a season in which scoring tries has been a major problem for them, this would perhaps be the turning point, but within minutes the game as good as over. Dungannon handled well to send wing Matthew Montgomery away and he cut infield to touch down behind the posts.
O’Hagan and McLean linked well as Rainey tried to find some inspiration and the latter added a penalty, but they promptly conceded the silliest of penalties at a ruck only seconds after doing so well to win the ball. Rutledge was sin-binned in time added and McLean found the target with the last kick of the game.
Old Boys: J. McIlroy, N. Stirling, D. McMurray, S. Derby, S. McLean, G. Martin, S. Rutledge, J. Roe, T. OHagan, T. Barker, R. McCusker, R. Winters, J. Lees, J. McMurray. Subs: K. Donaghy, M. McClelland, N. O’Kane, B. Mullan, A. Pitman.