On Saturday Rainey Endowed School 1st XV hosted Foyle College in the semi-finals of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools Bowl.
Without captain Calvin Smyth and vice-captain Rory Nicholl the task was going to be difficult, considering they had lost to Foyle earlier in the season.
After a night of snow the pitch was heavy. Unfortunately, Rainey started the game in familiar fashion going behind to a soft try within the first minute. Foyle converted this to go 7-0 up.
Rainey to their credit did not panic and soon went on the attack. In terrible conditions they tried to move the ball but found this difficult.
With Andrew Brown and Lorcan Quinn causing problems for the opposition Rainey enjoyed territorial advantage.
As the conditions deteriorated the local boys had to change their tactics. It was going to be a day for forward play and Todd Smyth and Cameron Stewart were both relishing the challenge.
However, Rainey found the Foyle defence difficult to break down and Foyle posed a threat on the counter attack.
With half time approaching Rainey pushed hard through Adam Currie and Timmy Shiels but again they were denied.
In the second half, Rainey increased their intensity. Scott Campbell and Mark Rooney put them in good attacking positions.
From a 5 metre scrum, Neal Hastings put the Foyle kicker under pressure and from the charge down Mark Allingham pounced on the ball to score Rainey’s first try.
Mark Rooney converted to make the score 7-7.
Foyle responded immediately and went on the attack. Excellent tackling from Connor Stobo prevented them from scoring a try. However, they were awarded a penalty which they converted to go back in front by 10-7.
This seemed to inspire the Magherafelt boys and their determination was evident.
They went on the attack again with Andrew Conway attacking from deep. Mark Mulholland in the centre was also almost close to breaking free. With time running out Mark Rooney put in an intelligent kick.
Andrew Nicholl caused havoc in the Foyle defence and won a 5 metre lineout.
From the lineout, the impressive Mark Allingham found Neal Hastings and a powerful drive resulted in Anton Lupari touching down to regain the lead for Rainey.
Mark Rooney converted to make it 14-10. With nothing to lose Foyle through everything at Rainey, with Adam Patrick and Michael Lynn playing a big part in defence.
For what seemed like ages Rainey defended heroically and held on to win the game 14-10. This was another super performance from the Magherafelt boys.
Although, maybe not playing their best, they displayed brilliant character to get the win.
They have worked hard for this victory and it is hoped they go on and defeat Dalriada in the Bowl final.
Danske Bank Schools Cup Bowl Final – Rainey Endowed School v Dalriada on Wednesday 4th March at Ballymena Rugby Club at 2.30pm. All support would be much appreciated.