Energia AIL 2B Rainey v Sligo1

AIL 7th October 2023

Scorers: Faiva(2*Try), Hall(1*Try), Quinn(1*Try), McLean(4*Conv, 1*Pen)


Visitors to Hatrick Park on Saturday could have justifiably concluded they were seeing double, with both visiting teams, Sligo and Lurgan, in near identical yellow, black and red hooped jerseys. Sadly, the results in both matches were also similar, the visitors emerging victorious in both cases. Rainey 1st XV opened their AIL campaign against Sligo, eventually going down to a heart-breaking loss in a 31-33 thriller.

Rainey opened brightly, and within a minute, Sligo were reduced to 14 men for a blatant high tackle. From the lineout, a precision attack took them close to the Sligo 22’ before a great charge from hooker O’Neill opened the defence. Out-half McLean sent the ball right, and then with a penalty coming it was spun left for fullback Faiva to split the defence and dive over in the corner. McLean converted.

A penalty for Sligo took them to the rainey 22’ and a catch and maul brought them a few more yards before a well-worked backs move brought their right-winger into the line. He cut through the home defence and was hauled down just short, but the scrum-half was quickly on hand to spin a long pass for his left-winger to go over in the corner. The conversion was wide.

Their tails up, Sligo stretched their lead with a penalty and were then controversially awarded a penalty try when Faiva was deemed offside with an interception and received a yellow card. The visitors turned the screw once more, making use of the extra man, when their out-half sent a perfect crossfield kick for his winger to scamper over for their third try. The conversion was good.
With less than 10 minutes of the half remaining, the home side needed to get points on the board, and when McLean was taken out in the air on halfway, winger AJ Brown sent a perfectly weighted kick to the Sligo 5m line. Rainey threw to the back and speedily mauled towards the posts before Flanker Hall was driven over. McLean’s conversion was a formality.

As the half ended, another penalty saw McLean kick to the 22’ and a superb catch by lock R.McCusker allowed Rainey to set up another highspeed maul. Stopped just shy of the line, quick-thinking scrum-half Quinn cut to the left of the ruck and scored. McLean’s conversion restored Rainey’s lead.

They continued their good work in the second half, taking play deep into Sligo territory. Centre J.Hastings came close, before another 5m lineout saw flanker M.McCusker drive for the line. When he was halted, McLean sent the ball right and Faiva was once more on hand to score. The conversion was good.

Sligo were down, but far from out and they soon narrowed the gap again. Winning a scrum penalty in Rainey’s 22’, they went for the corner and when Rainey repulsed the initial shove, a quick offload sent their winger in at the flag. The conversion was wide.

Rainey held out against several Sligo attacks, but were eventually penalised in front of the posts allowing the visitors to take the lead once again. A bad overthrow at a lineout on halfway gave M.McCusker an opportunity to charge through the Connaught men’s defence supported by replacement flanker L.Montgomery. McLean sent another great penalty kick to the corner, and as Rainey pressed for the line Sligo saw a player binned for repeated offside infractions, soon followed by a second on the intervention of a touchjudge for punching. Rainey eventually opted for the penalty to take the lead, and McLean duly stroked it over.

With a little 5 minutes remaining, the game should have been over, but Sligo had other ideas. Rainey were penalised for illegal contact in the air while competing for a high ball, and Sligo pinned them back into their 22’ forcing a penalty with less than 5 minutes to go. When this was converted, Rainey were in the last chance saloon. Winning a scrum penalty on the Sligo 10m line, they opted to go for goal. The tension was palpable as the entire ground fell silent for the kick, but although it had the range, for the first time in the match McLean was just off-target and the referee brought proceedings to a close.

Rainey travel south to face Wanderers next week, followed by a home match on the 21st against newly promoted Instonians in what promises to be an epic clash.

TEAM: T.O’Hagan, D.O’Neill(c), A.McSwiggan, T.Hutchinson, R.McCusker, M.McCusker, B.Hall, A.Montgomery, L.Quinn, S.McLean, AJ Brown, A.Brown, D.McMurray, M.Mulholland, M.Faiva.
SUBS: M.Nevin, K.Donaghy, S.Hastings, L.Montgomery, J.Hastings


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