Cashel 23-10 Rainey OB
Seasonal cheer could be in short supply around Hatrick Park where Rainey Old Boys will still be coming to terms with their defeat at Cashel in the Ulster Bank League.
Having taken a long time to get going and give themselves every chance of taking something from the game, they imploded in the final quarter, their lack of discipline contributing in no small measure to their demise.
Three Rainey players were shown the yellow card and with a two man advantage Cashel made them suffer, seizing the initiative to claim a vital 23-10 victory and their first bonus point of the campaign.
While happy to bring in Scott Gibson at scrum-half, Rainey were without injured No 8 Paddy McGowan and the unavailable Michael Pyper and Tim Barker.
Players of this quality and experience are always likely to be missed and, while they played some good rugby at times, they spluttered for much of a very mediocre affair.
The ball retention of some of their most experienced forwards let them down at vital times and a lack of control at the lineout led directly to two of Cashel’s tries.
Rainey conceded three penalties in the first five minutes at Spafield, but defended well with out-half Martin kicking well and O’Connor, Martin and Jody McMurray combining to take play to the other end.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Rainey were awarded a penalty on the Cashel 22’, right in front of the posts, but Gibson opted for a quick tap and go which came to nothing.
They worked their way into the corner again, but gave the ball away within reach of the goal-line. Cashel showed them how to do it after 34 minutes to open the scoring.
Rainey loose-head Rutledge powered his way towards the Cashel posts with Boyle taking it on, but, with a try looking almost certain, the ball was again spilled in the tackle.
Right on half-time, O’Connor opened Rainey’s account with a penalty.
Rainey at last began to show some urgency on the restart with Shiels and Gibson catching the eye as play swung from end to end and they went ahead on 50 minutes through O’Kane.
O’Kane and O’Neill went through on poor Cashel lineout ball with Martin and Damien McMurray working a loop move in the centre before replacement wing Gordon raced down the touchline where quick ruck ball was flashed back acrossfield to the supporting O’Kane. O’Connor converted.
The Tipperary side hit back with a vengeance, Rutledge saving Rainey’s bacon with a great exhibition of robbing in front of his posts, but in their next attack a long, floated pass set up the equalising try.
Good play by Shiels earned Rainey a penalty, but O’Connor miscued on a tricky playing surface.
Entering the last quarter, things started to go pear-shaped for Rainey. O’Kane was yellow carded in midfield and he was followed to the sideline by Shiels who picked up a leg injury.
On 67 minutes, Gibson was directed towards the sin-bin and with a huge advantage Cashel forged ahead with a penalty and a try.
Rainey produced their best piece of forward play of the match to get to within striking distance only to hand the ball to the opposition who cleared and then hacked on to force a 22’ drop out.
A forward pass cost Cashel a try as matters got completely out of hand in the closing minutes.
The captains were spoken to twice by the referee as outbreaks of fighting among the forwards looked nasty and McClelland joined his colleagues on the sideline after directing a comment at the beleaguered match official.
The last play of the game, in the eighth minute of added time, saw Rainey fumble a lineout catch to gift Cashel a bonus point try.
Team: M O’Connor, R McCloskey, J McMurray, D McMurray, N Stirling, S Gibson, G Martin, S Rutledge, J Roe, N O’Kane, R McCusker, P Boyle, M Shiels, J Lees, C O’Neill.
Replacements: M Gordon, A Shaw, K Donaghy, M McClelland, E Shaw.