Ard 10-33 Rainey
With some vital AIL games just around the corner, both Ards and Rainey Old Boys were intent on adopting a positive approach when they met in a re-arranged Ulster Senior Championship fixture.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, the players deserve great credit for serving up a reasonably entertaining game which Rainey won 33-10.
With an icy wind blowing from the Scrabo Tower end in their favour, Rainey,happy to be able to include some players who have seen little or no action in recent months, took a little while to settle.
Centre O’Connor put them in front with a simple penalty after ten minutes.
They threatened when Gordon and O’Connor moved it a crossfield to Clarke, but, when play then moved infield, a mistake let Ards off the hook.
Rainey needed points on the board before the break and two tries in quick succession eased their fears.
When Ards tried to run it out of defence, Rainey openside Lees put in a telling tackle, swooped on the breakdown ball and transferred inside to the oncoming O’Connor who sent No.8 Shiels in for a fine try which O’Connor goaled.
Right-wing Clarke then skinned two opponents on the outside to launch an attack which ended with Gordon running in a great try on the other wing.
O’Connor converted with a towering kick and added a penalty when Ards were penalized at a scrum.Just on half-time, Ards moved the ball around well to score an unconverted try on their first visit to the Rainey 22’.
Ards scored another try two minutes into the second half,but were forced to take a back seat for the rest of the game as Rainey’s committed young pack snapped up a lot of loose ball to allow the backs to express themselves.
O’Neill, Pyper and Shiels combined through the middle to create the ideal platform, but they had to settle for a penalty goal.
Shortly afterwards, however, they won turnover ball on their own 22’ and wasted no time in moving it wide to Gordon who broke down the left up to halfway before sending replacement Stirling clear with an inside pass.
Stirling then struck again when prop replacement A Shaw, normally a hooker, sold a dummy in midfield before releasing the Ballymena man for try number four.
Shaw then did well to recover a hack through and launch a counter along the touchline. Rainey could have increased their lead in the closing minutes, but were prevented from taking quick tap penalties on several occasions by the referee.
Team: J Crowe, A Clarke, M O’Connor, J McMurray, M Gordon, M Pyper, C Fulton, T O’Hagan J Roe, N O’Kane, R McCusker, C Murphy, C O’Neill, M Shiels, J Lees.
Replacements: A Shaw, E Shaw, N Stirling, T Emerson.