Rainey U13 12 - 7 Donegal Town U13
Scorers: Shaw(1*Try), Lawrence(1*Try), Smyth(1*Conv)
THE Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown was the venue as Rainey U13s ended their season on a well-deserved high when they came from behind in the closing minutes to clinch the Ulster U13 Plate against a talented Donegal Town side.
Playing with the breeze in the first half, Donegal didn’t take long to test the Rainey defence. A sweeping backline move sent the pacey left winger clear along the touchline with only a superb covering tackle from Shaw preventing a certain try.
On their first real chance to test the Donegal defence out wide, however, tragedy struck. The ball was won from a ruck and passed speedily along the backs to full-back Keenan, but as he stepped on the gas, he damaged his Achilles tendon and had to retire shortly afterwards.
Things then got worse when prop McCullough, who had been scrummaging well, had to leave the field with a suspected broken hand.
However, the forwards re-organised with the addition of O.McWilliams and continued to make good ground through excellent rucking and mauling when they got the chance.
Donegal threw everything they had at the Rainey boys, but they continued to hold firm, with O’Neill, Lupari and Young putting in crucial tackles. However, just as it looked like the half was going to end scoreless, with their last play, the Donegal forwards carried the ball into the Rainey half. A replica of their first attack saw the ball spun out wide to the looping out-half and this time his speed saw him round the Rainey defence and he scored a well-deserved try close to the posts. The conversion gave Donegal a 7-0 lead as the half ended.
After a stiff talking-to from their coaches, Rainey started the second half much stronger.
The wind had picked up and was favouring Rainey, preventing Donegal from kicking any distance to ease the pressure. However, some crucial penalty decisions did not go Rainey’s way, and twice they were marched back 10m or more by the official.
Following a strong forward drive in a scrum close to their own 10m line, the ball was sent across the back line, but a loose pass went behind the fullback L.McWilliams and the move looked to have stalled.
Great covering across from Feathers however, saw the ball recovered, driven to the Donegal 10m line and moved to Shaw who set off on a sweeping run along the left wing to cross and score under the Donegal posts. The conversion was fluffed and Rainey still found themselves behind.
From the restart, Donegal stormed into the Rainey half and forced their way close to the Rainey line. Heroic tackling held them at bay until Rainey were awarded a scrum 5m from their own line. From the scrum, a rare wayward pass from scrum-half Lloyd-Evans meant out-half Hall had to juggle the ball before launching a huge crossfield clearance kick into touch.
As time ticked towards the last few minutes, Donegal had to withstand huge Rainey pressure, without really getting out of their own ‘22’.
But Rainey did not panic and kept the pressure on the Donegal defence. They were rewarded in the dying minutes of play with a 5m scrum. No8 Lawrence picked up from the base and drove through 4 defenders to cross the line. Smyth landed a fine conversion and finally Rainey were in front.
There were still a few nervous moments as the referee informed the teams that there was still time for a restart, but the ball was caught cleanly by L.McWilliams and hoofed safely into touch. Game over.
Without doubt, this was one of the most keenly fought games Rainey have had all season and credit must go to Donegal for pushing them all the way.
Joe Goddard, David Evans, Ruairi McCann, Odhran Lynch, Charlie Clarke, Oisin McWilliams, Conall Shaw, John McCusker, Jack McCullough, Christian Lawrence, Callum Smyth, Jack Lloyd Evans, Gareth Hall, Giuseppe Lupari, Ruairi Keenan, Michael O’Neill, Elliot Young, Ben McCloskey, Ciaran McGlone, Lorcan McWilliams, Marc Feathers.