AIL 2B 2nd December 2023
Scorers: N'Neill(1*Try), Faiva(2*Try), R.McCusker(1*Try), McLean(4*Conv)

Skerries were the latest AIL visitors to Hatrick Park as the league resumed after a rest week. Despite a confident start, Rainey’s hopes of building on their recent momentum were sadly dashed as they crashed to a 28 – 47 defeat.

Rainey started brightly, going through the phases but without making much ground until a Skerries played was pinged for offside. Out-half McLean went straight to the corner and a superb catch and maul saw hooker O’Neill dive over for the opener. The conversion was good.

Undaunted, Skerries were soon on the attack and some poor Rainey tackling allowed them to make ground before a deft pass sent their winger over in the corner, juggling the ball before safely getting it grounded. The difficult conversion was missed.

Rainey were soon in trouble again, as a failure to deal with a Skerries box kick saw them back in their 22’. The defence did well to withstand multiple phases, but when they left space at the side of a ruck, a Skerries forward was quick to spot the opportunity and burst through to score a converted try.

A concerted Rainey attack saw another maul make good ground and they got to within 10m, but a forward pass let Skerries off the hook and a subsequent scrum penalty allowed them to clear their lines. They then added a third try when Rainey’s tackling was again suspect, their out-half dummying the Rainey defensive line to create space before offloading for the try. The conversion provided no difficulty.

With the visitors playing all the rugby, Rainey were forced to live off scraps. A rare incursion into the Skerries 22’ was showing potential, when once again the home side shot themselves in the foot. Going right, a well-telegraphed pass was superbly plucked by the Skerries out-half and he had the gas to go all the way, diving over in the corner for an unconverted try.

It took a moment of magic from fullback Faiva to haul Rainey back into the game. Catching a clearance kick just outside his own 22’ he faced forward, making an innocuous chip ahead on the 10m line. Weaving through both sets of players, he snatched the ball as it bounced loose and showed a clean pair of heels to the Skerries defence. McLean’s conversion was good.

Invigorated, Rainey re-started brightly, but it didn’t last. Yet again poor tackling in the middle of the park allowed a Skerries player to skip through and link with a retreating player to send him in beside the posts. The conversion was straightforward and another penalty gave them a 20-point cushion at half-time.

Upon the resumption a great 50-22 from scrum-half Lloyd-Evans gave Rainey a lift, but it fizzled out once more due to a handling error. Skerries then demonstrated that you make your own luck. Breaking from their own 22’, a combination of good off-loading and indecisive Rainey tackling took them to the home 22’. For once, a poor final off-load seemed to have curtailed the move, but a hack-on sent the ball towards the Rainey posts and into the path of a supporting Skerries play. He attempted to dribble the ball over the line, but was denied as it hit the post and bounced back, for yet another Skerries player to grab and dive over for a converted try.

A series of penalties against Rainey brought Skerries within kicking range and they added another penalty, before Rainey got a third, lock McCusker forcing his way over from short range following good work by the forwards. Mclean converted and Rainey were now playing for a consolation bonus point.

They got their chance when a McLean penalty sent them onto the Skerries 22’. Going through the phases, they drew a penalty, and went to the corner again. Once more Skerries thwarted the maul, but the home side kept their heads and continued to hit the visitors defensive line, eventually drawing them offside once more. With the penalty coming, McLean sent a speculative crossfield kick left to winger Devlin. Although unable to catch it cleanly, he knocked it back and in the resultant scramble, quick-thinking Faiva was on hand to grab it and fall over the line for the try. Mclean landed a great kick.

With the fog descending, the contest was over, but the drama wasn’t. Skerries added a penalty before Rainey launched a last attack. They camped in the Skerries 5m but couldn’t cross the line. Both sides lost a player to the bin for an altercation, and McCusker was held-up. Back they came but the defense held solid for the last few minutes.

Next week Rainey travel to Galway Corinthians before returning to Hatrick Park on the 16th for the local derby against Dungannon.

TEAM: A.Nevin, D.O’Neill(c), A.McSwiggan, T.Hutchinson, R.McCusker, M.McCusker, A.Montgomery, L.Montgomery, J.Lloyd-Evans, S.McLean, C.Devlin, C.Fitzsimmons, J.Hastings, E.Canavan, M.Faiva.
SUBS: M.Nevin, K.Donaghy, S.Hastings, B.Hall, L.Quinn


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