RAINEY saw their winning run come to an end at Hatrick Park on Saturday as Banbridge ran out 15-3 winners.
For fifty minutes, the away side coached by Kiwi Dan Soper and former Ulster and Ireland prop Simon Best, did an impressive job containing the Rainey attack. Bann had done their home work and realised that they needed to keep Rainey play-maker Peter Sciascia quiet if they were to come out on top.
Rainey,without the unavailable McMurray in the centre and flanker Shiels who was a late withdrawal due to illness, lacked the composure on the day to turn what few chances they created into points and in the end had to play second fiddle as Banbridge’s set piecework earned them a deserved 15-3 victory.
After their shock defeat at Boyne, Banbridge simply had to win this game to stay in the race and conditions were tailor-made for them.
Their rolling maul game, perfectly suited to a wintry day, is hard to stop and their fast closing three quarters had little trouble keeping the Rainey backs in check.
Rainey missed the boat in the first ten minutes of the second half. They ran a close range penalty and as advantage was played went through several phases until being forced back.
Two minutes later they should have scored when their best player Paul Heaney seized on a loose ball at the tail to storm into the Banbridge 22’ with support. Harbinson drove on towards the posts to set up an obvious overlap, but the handling was not good enough and they rarely crossed the halfway line thereafter.
Rainey were twice in the visitors’ 22’ in the opening minutes, but their stay was short-lived. A quick lineout enabled them to move it across field well, but a transgression ended that threat.
On 14 minutes Banbridge took a shock lead number eight Irvine broke two tackles up to halfway where they moved it wide to right-wing Pollock. There appeared to be no immediate cause for alarm, but when he feinted to go inside, the home cover was left flat-footed as he eased around them on the outside for a killer try which out-half Thompson converted.
A rolling maul and a penalty to the corner had Rainey on their heels again, but a crooked throw let them off the hook and when Hawe and Heaney worked a back-row move in the Banbridge 22’, a number of phases led to a scrum and a penalty and a yellow card for a Banbridge prop.
Rainey opted for another scrum, but it was wheeled and a great chance was lost. A strike against the head on the 22’ raised home hopes, but a Banbridge penalty soon quietened the frustrated crowd. With admirable ball retention and patience, Banbridge started to look the part as they reached the Rainey 22’ for only the third time in the match just before half-time.
The game was effectively decided when Rainey failed to register points when they had Banbridge on the ropes after half-time. Thompson kicked a 50 yard penalty into the crosswind to make Rainey’s task a hopeless looking one, but Martin replied for Rainey seconds later when a great tackle from Rankin produced a penalty.
Replacements made no difference as Rainey struggled to get out of their own half and lost too much ball in contact.
Banbridge appeared to have clinched the points when their huge forwards drove over from fifteen yards for a pushover try, but as Thompson stepped forward for the conversion attempt, the referee’s attention was drawn to a touch judge.
The remarkable outcome was the dismissal of Banbridge second-row Bickerstaff for foul play and a relieving penalty to Rainey. This, of course, made Banbridge even more determined to strangle the life out of the Rainey pack and when Hawe was sin-binned,
Rainey’s chances of holding on for a losing bonus point faded rapidly. They survived a catch and drive and two pushover attempts before hooker Weir broke from a maul to score a 75th minute try in the corner.
Team : R.Paul, A.Clarke, J.McBride, W.Montgomery, P.Wilson, G.Martin, P.Sciascia, S.McDowell, S.Sufferin, P.Boyle, N.Rankin, D.Dawson, A.Harbinson, P.Heaney, S.Hawe.
Replacements :R.Hall (McDowell 43) R.Hill (Harbinson 43) K.Donaghy (Sufferin 60)
Fixtures for 10 December
1st XV v Sligo (A)
2nd XV v Londonderry YM - Conference 4 (A)
3rd XV v Belfast HS 2 (A)
4th XV v Grosvenor 4 - McCambley Cup (A)
Rainey travel to Hamilton Park, Strandhill on Saturday for their first ever meeting with Sligo, who were a senior club for five seasons in the Nineties.
Back in the AIL as Connacht champions, they lost their first five games by small margins, but have risen to eleventh spot with away wins over Naas and Wanderers.
Prop Neil O’Kane, out with a knee injury since the opening day of the AIL programme, has stepped up his training and could be given some game time this week.
Over the holiday period Rainey entertain Dungannon (17 Dec) and Armagh (31 Dec) in the Ulster League. The AIL resumes on January 28.
In the Under 19 League, Rainey OB beat Letterkenny 15-0 at Meadowbank. Coached by Damien Campbell, they were always in control and the result was never in doubt.
Scrum-half Donaghy gave them an early lead with a penalty and later converted a try from centre Coleman.
Some great runs from prop and captain O’Hagan kept them on the front foot and a try from centre Downey midway through the second half made victory absolutely certain.
200 Club Draw - latest winners are: Jim Fentie and David Dawson Senior