AIL 2B 27th January 2024
Scorers: O'Hagan(1*Try), Lee(1*Try), McLean(4*Pen, 1*Conv)

Travelling south to Skerries last weekend, Rainey must have felt quietly confident about coming away with a win and maybe even a bonus point. Instead, two red cards in the opening half hour cut them to thirteen players for the majority of the game, and in the end, they did well to hang on for a 29 – 24 defeat, winning a losing bonus point for their efforts.

Kicking off into a stiff breeze, Rainey had the better of the opening encounters, earning a penalty and a lineout 10m out. Skerries did well to withstand the initial surge from the Rainey pack, but had no answer when prop O’Hagan broke free from the maul to storm over for the opening try. McLean’s conversion into the wind drifted wide.

A rock-solid scrum then provided the platform as energetic carries by backrow partners McCusker and Lee took play to the home 22’ from where McLean slotted over a penalty to extend the Rainey lead.

A ridiculously high tackle on McCusker was them deemed to be only worthy of a ticking-off, but McLean’s penalty took play to just outside the home 22’. The Rainey pack mauled to the 10m, but they were forced to start going through the phases as the home defence held, and Skerries eventually won a penalty. Back-chat added another 10m, but worse was to come as, upon the intervention of a touch judge, centre McMurray was shown red for an altercation at a ruck.

Skerries made immediate use of their advantage, winning the lineout and stretching the Rainey defence for their left wing to tear down the touchline for a try. The conversion was missed.

Having been totally dominant to this point, Rainey were now well under the cosh and only a great covering tackle from McLean and jackaling by fullback M.O’Neill prevented another home try.

Disaster then struck when captain and hooker D.O’Neill saw Rainey’s second red card for making head-on-head contact as he piled into a ruck and Skerries now had a two man advantage. Twice they forced their way to the visitors’ line but were repelled, and Rainey then extended their lead against the run of play with another McLean penalty.

With Rainey covering and tackling like men possessed, it was hard to believe they playing at a disadvantage and as halftime approached it looked like they could hold out, but somehow Skerries managed to scramble the ball over in the corner, with a brilliant conversion giving them a 1-point lead at the break.

Correcting their tactics as the second half opened, Skerries began to put a better shape on their backline, and were soon utilising the overlap to score in the corner for the third time. The conversion was missed.

Refusing to capitulate, Rainey took play back to the Skerries’ 22’ and a thundering carry by O’Hagan brought them to within 5m. Recycling quickly, the ball was fed to Lee and he powered through close to the posts for Rainey’s second. The conversion gave Rainey a 1-point lead, and as they held on grimly, it was extended by another penalty from McLean.

Stung, Skerries tore into Rainey from the restart, seeking the bonus try. Time after time they were denied, but after an incredible 20 phases they finally crossed in the corner to regain the lead. The conversion was good.

They looked to have created another overlap soon after but a ferocious tackle into touch by centre Fitzsimons, playing his final game for the club, stopped the play in its tracks. Now camped in the Rainey half, Skerries continued to press, a series of penalties finally giving them the chance to cross for their fifth try. The conversion was missed.

With the clock ticking towards no-side, the forwards dismantled a Skerries scrum to earn a shot at goal for McLean and he duly obliged to earn Rainey a well-deserved bonus point, maintaining their fifth position in the league.

Rainey’s next match is a home encounter against bottom of the table Belfast Harlequins on 10th February.

TEAM: T.O’Hagan, D.O’Neill(c), A.McSwiggan, M.McCusker, T.Hutchinson, D.Devlin, M.Lee, A.Montgomery, A.Donaghy, S.McLean, C.Fitzsimons, A.Brown, D.McMurray, M.O’Neill, L.Regan.
SUBS: K.Donaghy, M.Nevin, L.Montgomery, L.Quinn, J.Bell


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