AIL 2B 16th December 2023
Scorers: Barker(2*Try), Faiva(1*Try), Quinn(1*Try), McLean(2*Conv, 1*Pen)

Rainey enter the Christmas AIL break on a high after Saturday’s crucial win against Dungannon in the local derby, a try-bonus point being the icing on the cake. The result takes the Magherafelt men to fifth position at the half-way point of the league.

Rainey, kicking off with a stiff breeze at their backs, made the early running and out-half McLean was unlucky when an attempt at goal rebounded from the upright. Dungannon were first on the board however, as they added a penalty at the other end to take an early lead after a sustained period of pressure in the Rainey 22’.

The home side then seemed to have wasted a great scoring opportunity when a 5m lineout move fizzled out, but a second effort from just inside the 22’ came up trumps. They took the maul infield, then went right to prop O’Hagan who was held-up just short. Quick thinking scrum-half Quinn dummied right from the base of the ruck and dived over between the Dungannon players to grab the score. McLean was just wide with the conversion attempt, but he slotted over a penalty a few minutes later to increase Rainey’s lead.

While there were some ferocious hits coming in from both sides, it was the Rainey pack who seemed to be gaining dominance in the scrums and the loose. Another foray into the visitors’ 22’ set up a punishing series of hits as the home pack pulverised the defence from short range, before lock Barker forced his way over to raucous cheering from the home crowd. The conversion was good.

However, as has often been the case this season, a silly infringement by Rainey soon after scoring gave Dungannon the chance to kick to the corner. Being no slouches at the art of the maul themselves, they forced their way over for a try, but were unlucky when the conversion hit the upright.

Starting the second half into a strengthening breeze, Rainey were soon in trouble when another penalty took Dungannon to 5m out. The Rainey pack prevented formation of the maul, but a few phases later Dungannon sliced open the defence to cross the whitewash, only to be pulled back for a forward pass.

Unable to definitively kick their way out of trouble, Rainey shipped another penalty, but a great take by lock R.McCusker at the restart handed them back the initiative. Expansive play by the backs saw winger Devlin take play to 10m out, and Rainey recycled well before a poor pass saw the move break down, with the ball trundling into touch.

A wind-assisted kick took Dungannon back to the Rainey 5m line, but again the defence nullified the maul and a perfect clearance by fullback Faiva took play back to the Dungannon 22’ to relieve the pressure.

At this stage, the game was finely poised, with both sides having chances to score, but as the half wore on Rainey seemed to grow more confident. McLean sent another penalty into the 22’ and the Rainey maul got into gear. With a penalty coming, R.McCusker broke left and off-loaded to Quinn who jinked his way almost to the line. A strong clear-out from McLean at the ruck teed the ball up nicely and the experienced Barker was on hand to grab the chance, diving over for his second of the day. The conversion was just wide.

From the restart, Dungannon did well to stop Rainey from finding touch, but as they attacked along the Rainey 10m line, a loose pass bounced up into the arms of Faiva and he gleefully sprinted to score under the posts, cheers from the supporters ringing in his ears. The conversion was good and while the whole complexion of the game had changed, Dungannon were far from done.

Another penalty against Rainey in the middle of the park cost them flanker M.McCusker to the bin and took play to the home 5m. This time the Dungannon maul made no mistake, although they were unable to add the conversion.

A nifty kick and chase by Faiva yielded a penalty as Rainey sought to extend their lead. Wingers Devlin and Canavan both came close, but eventually Dungannon broke out down the middle of the park. Although they finished strongly, Rainey were able to withstand the attack and run out worthy winners.

Rainey’s next match will be the return fixture at Stevenson Park on 13th January.

TEAM: T.O’Hagan, D.O’Neill(c), M.Nevin, T.Barker, R.McCusker, T.Hutchinson, M.McCusker, J.Bresland, L.Quinn, S.McLean, C.Devlin, C.Fitzsimmons, D.McMurray, E.Canavan, M.Faiva.
SUBS: K.Donaghy, A.Nevin, S.Hastings, L.Montgomery, A.Donaghy


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