RAINEY OLD BOYS 32 HIGHFIELD 12
Rainey Old Boys have subjected their supporters to some nerve-wracking finishes in recent months, but they had the points more or less sewn up by the hour mark when they met Highfield at Hatrick Park.
A spectacular individual effort from Nicholas Sterling put them firmly in the driving seat and they went on to win 31-12,their first victory over the Cork side.
On a lovely Spring afternoon, conditions were ideal for running rugby. Rainey carelessly allowed the receiver to carry thirty yards from the kick-off, but, from the first scrum on halfway, they flashed it wide for wing O’Connor to chip over the head of his opposite number, bring the ball under control with two little minor adjustments and streak clear for a try at the posts.
Rainey continued to force the pace with Shiels cutting infield, but fellow flanker Lees was penalised on the intervention of a touch judge.
A solid scrum and a regular supply of good lineout ball from Mc Gowan and Shiels allowed out-half Pyper to feed his three-quarters with some trademark long passes, but a clinical finish was lacking.
Simpson, Fritz and Cassidy were involved in moves that should have been more productive and all the good work meant nothing when Highfield drew level on 21 minutes.
From a great scrum deep in enemy territory, Rainey let it out, but an ambitious little pass went to ground. Highfield hacked up to halfway and then put in a high kick which Rainey full-back Martin failed to take on the run.
The loose ball was hacked forward again with no Rainey cover there to save the day.
Rainey continued to call the tune, but O’Connor twice missed the target and lost control when given a scrum put-in in a great attacking position.
After 33 minutes, livewire hooker Fritz showed his slick handling skills to sell a lovely dummy and send Mc Gowan free to score at the posts.
Just on half-time, Highfield missed a great chance when they dropped the ball in the Rainey 22 to allow Sterling to tidy up and Kidd to find a safe touch.
Highfield missed a clear chance on the resumption when Rainey No. 8 Mitchell dropped the restart kick.
Shiels, Pyper and Fritz combined in one of Rainey’s best handling moves, but a penalty decision brought it to an abrupt end.
Highfield showed that they could move the ball well with some good offloading and Mitchell and then Fritz were called on to deal with tricky situations.
Rainey did well to turn over ball in their 22 and open it out for Sterling to easily beat his man on the outside,but his inside pass to McGowan on halfway was dropped with the path clear in front of him.
A wayward pass from Kidd, who otherwise had a fine game, was tidied up by McMurray with support from Rutledge who earned a penalty which O’Connor kicked.
Rainey finally managed to put some daylight between them when Sterling moved infield to brush off two tackles, checked and headed back outside again for pace to take him clear of the cover. O’Connor made it 24-7 with a fine kick.
With ten minutes remaining, McGowan atoned for his earlier clanger when he read the play perfectly to intercept 30 yards from the home line and score his second try of the day beneath the posts.
With two minutes remaining, Highfield went to the corner with a penalty and eventually worked their way over for a consolation try.
Team: G Martin, M O’Connor, D McMurray, S Simpson, J Cassidy, M Pyper, P Kidd, P Boyle, M Shiels, J Lees, P McGowan, C Mitchell, S Rutledge, G Fritz, N O’Kane. Replacements: N Sterling, A Kirk, D Dawson, K Donaghy, J McMurray.
Fixture: Saturday - Rainey OB v Ballymena, home, 2.30pm.