The wait for a first ever First Trust Ulster Senior Cup success goes on for Rainey Old Boys as they were undone by holders, City of Armagh, in their semi-final clash at the Palace Grounds.
Having only reached the final on one previous occasion, the Magherafelt-based club, hot on the success of wining SONI Ulster Rugby Championship Division Two, pre Christmas had high hopes this could be their year.
And while City of Armagh - who had won the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership Division One title for the past two seasons - are being replaced by the Rainey side next season having been relegated, the gulf in class between the All Ireland League divisions was clear in this semi-final.
Armagh will now face Ballymena in a repeat of last year’s final on February 8.
Against Rainey, Armagh were 7-0 ahead after just two minutes when number 8 Neil Faloon peeled off a lineout to dot down. Outhalf Cormac Fox converted.
Rainey’s efforts were not helped when captain, Paul Pritchard had to leave the field with a hand injury.
Having dominated the opening quarter, Rainey stunned Armagh with a try through Damian McMurray, Andrew Magrath unable to convert.
Straight from the restart, Rainey were penalised and Fox saw his 45m attempt rebound off the pole.
The visitors then went straight down the pitch and scored their second try of the match, Andrew Donaghy making the break and winger Ciaran Devlin gonig over in the corner to lead 10-7.
Playing with confidence, the Rainey backline was looking sharp and making ground when in possession.
The home side were spurred into a response and got their reward on 30 minutes when fullback Timmy McNeice cut inside to cross for a try to the right of the posts. Fox’s conversion restored Armagh’s lead to 14-10.
Magrath missed a penalty for Rainey and Armagh were to go in at the break leading 19-10 after Andrew Willis secured Fox’s crossfield kick.
Willis started the second half as he had finished the first crossing for a try to push Armagh into a 24-10 lead, Fox again missing the converstion.
On 55 minutes, Rainey scrumhalf Jason Bloomfield made a break from halfway and looked like he might reach the tryline but Armagh scrambled back and a lack of support saw the chance for Rainey disappear.
Two minutes later, it was Armagh captain Chris Colvin who sealed the Cup final place when he intercepted on the Rainey 10m line and made it under the posts for a converted try and a scoreline of 31-10.
In the closing five minutes Rainey put on some solid pressure and when James Morton was sin-binned the Magherafelt boys turned the screw and Andrew Brown went over for a try to complete the scoring.
Armagh coach Willie Faloon said: “We set a target to defend our Senior Cup and we are pleased to have the opportunity to hold on to it but Ballymena will be a major challenge given their current good form.”