Rainey OB 14 Banbridge 16
A young Rainey Old Boys team saw victory snatched from their grasp when a try in added time gave Banbridge victory at Hatrick Park.
Though clearly devastated, they have shown great spirit all season despite a series of setbacks and can at least take considerable satisfaction from extending a Banbridge side that has moved steadily up the table on the strength of five successive victories.
Yet again, Rainey had to settle for a losing bonus point,scant reward for such a brave display.
With five minutes left to play, Rainey were 14-9 in front and looking like holding on, but the intervention of a touch judge on three occasions was to alter the picture dramatically.
Flanker Shaw was yellow carded and two minutes later replacement hooker Donaghy red carded following an altercation with his opposite number.
As the game moved into added time, O’Connor had a chance to make sure of a home win, but this time missed the target.
Rainey fought like demons to keep the pressure on, but a long, relieving kick down the left wing and a hack on led to the award of a penalty try.
The conversion, a formality, clinched the points for Banbridge and was the last kick of the game.
Rainey, with the wind at their backs, looked lively from the off, tearing into the visitors to create openings.
Though repelled, they charged down a box kick at a lineout on the 22’ and poured through, with flanker Lees going over in the corner.
O’Connor’s conversion attempt came back off an upright.
As the rain rolled in for the afternoon and the sodden surface dictated the tactics of both sides, Banbridge landed a penalty, but Rainey dominated territorially.
A deft little chip from Martin gave Shaw something to chase, but the support conceded a silly penalty.
Time and again, passages of good play were followed by a lack of discipline which was to cost them later in the game.
Scrum-half Fulton did well to get back to cover when O’Connor dallied over a clearance before the full-back atoned with a magnificent penalty from almost 50 yards.
Playing sensible rugby in atrocious conditions, Rainey’s young pack worked like trojans to stay on top and with the last kick of the half O’Connor hammered over another great kick to make it 11-3.
With the elements in their favour, Banbridge clawed their way back into it as a battle royal was played out in the incessant rain.
Two penalties from scrum-half Kennedy reduced the deficit as Rainey lost second-row McCusker with a head injury.
Rainey gave as good as they got and must have been scenting victory when O’Connor rose to the occasion again with ten minutes remaining.
Their sterling efforts earned them field position, but the wheels were to come off in the dying minutes.
Team: M O’Connor, M Gordon, R McCluskey, J McMurray, N Stirling, G Martin, C Fulton, A Shaw, J Roe, N O’Kane, R McCusker, T Woods, E Shaw, J Lees, C O’Neill.
Replacements: S Rutledge, P Boyle, P Stewart, C Donaghy, T Emerson.
Other Division 2A results: Bective 11-38 Naas, Blackrock 29-15 Nenagh, Derry 43-0 Queen’s, Barnhall 13-17 Thomond, Seapoint 6-19 Cashel, Skerries 24-17 Dungannon.
Saturday fixtures: 1st XV v Thomond (away); 2nd XV v Ballynahinch 2s (away); 3rd XV v Omagh 3s (home).