Provincial League 1 7th December 2019

Scorers: O’Neill(1*Try), Devlin(2*Try), Friel(1*Try), Kearns(3*Conv)



For the second successive match, Rainey II got off to the worst possible start, conceding a try to Ballynahinch III after only three minutes.  In the event, it proved to be a minor blip as they went on to register yet another bonus point win, running out 26-7 ahead in this Provincial Division 1 top of the table encounter, opening up a twelve point lead in the process.  With a trip to Carrickfergus still to negotiate in two weeks’ time, they should be looking to maintain their lead over the Christmas break.


With overcast conditions threatening rain, and the going soft underfoot, the die was cast for an afternoon of up-the-jumper rugby, but to their credit, both sides decided to tear up the script.  ‘Hinch had the best possible start, their speedy left winger going in in the corner after their first incursion into the Rainey 22’.  Their kicker then landed a superb conversion to add icing to the cake, and the Rainey supporters were immediately hoping this wasn’t to be a bad day at the office for the home side.  To make matters worse, winger Moran was binned almost immediately afterwards for blocking.  When they lost No8 Millar to a blood injury, Rainey seemed to be unravelling.


They steadied however, and began playing to their strengths, methodically going through the phases, working their way upfield.  ‘Hinch had a forward binned for a tip tackle, and Rainey’s tails were up.  Blood replacement Smyth and Prop McIntosh carried well, and it was no surprise when the ball was spun left for Hooker O’Neill dot down in the corner.  Kearns showed he was no slouch in the conversion department either and the game was on.


From the restart, Smyth caught and charged up the middle, reaching halfway before he was finally downed.  With Millar returned to the fray, a penalty kick to the corner led to Rainey camping on the visitors’ line, a series of scrums keeping the pressure on.  Multiple times ‘Hinch tried to run the ball out, but were met by a red and black wall that refused to yield an inch.  Kicking did them no good, with winger Devlin dancing through tackles to bring play back to the 5m line.  A 5m scrum between the posts finally yielded results for Rainey.  Millar broke left, O’Neill and McIntosh carried well, and when the ball was spun right, Devlin was there to dive over unopposed.


The visitors then enjoyed a sizable period of possession, but try as they might, they couldn’t encroach on the Rainy 22’, a series of bone-crushing tackles sending them back on every occasion, to the delight of the home crowd.  A penalty finally got them close, but when McIntosh snaffled the throw-in, the chance was missed.


A great hanging restart to the second half from Kearns allowed the forwards time to get amongst the Ballynahinch receivers, and M.Nevin was quick to steal the ball and drive downfield.  A knock-on from ‘Hinch stopped the attack, but the visiting players’ mounting frustration and subsequent backchat led to the referee pausing the match to give them a severe dressing-down, much to their chagrin.  From the scrum, scrum-half Evans broke right, fed Devlin, who released winger Friel to barge over though two defenders.


With nothing to lose, ‘Hinch restarted strongly, and good phase-work saw their big prop break into the Rainey 22’.  Again, they got no further as the jarring Rainey hits started to go in once more, with Millar, Smyth and the Nevin brothers, Michael and Andrew, to the fore.  As the light faded, Rainey were desperate for the bonus point try, but with both teams playing well, they were unable to make much headway.  Indeed, Ballynahinch finally began to take the upper hand, a penalty landing them a lineout on the Rainey 22’.  Again, the home defensive line stood strong, and they eventually forced a turnover, a soaring kick sending ‘Hinch back and a superb chase by Friel, who bundled the winger unceremoniously into touch.  Back, came ‘Hinch a scything break by their centres taking play to the Rainey 5m line before they were repulsed once more.


With ten minutes to go, Rainey lost Evans to a severe ankle injury, the ref stopping play, and eventually moving the game to an adjacent pitch while awaiting the arrival of medical services.  With fullback J.Hastings now operating at scrum-half, Rainey moved up a gear, tearing into the opposition.  First Devlin had a great solo run, jinking through the defence as if they weren’t there, then O’Neill charged down the middle sending defenders flying.  As Rainey camped on the visitors’ line, it was a race against the clock to see if they could get the bonus point.  With the ref signalling last play, first the forwards battered their way close to the line, then the ball was sent left to Devlin.  Inexplicably, he broke right, back into traffic, but showed his class by dancing through tackles to score beside the posts.  Kearns added the extras to bring an enthralling game to a close.


Team:  J.McIntosh, D.O’Neill, D.McErlain, N.Hastings, A.Doherty, M.Millar, B, Hall, M.Nevin, H.Evans, R.Kearns, C.Devlin, G.Hall, M.Mulholland, C.Moran, J.Hastings

Replacements: A.Nevin, C.Smyth, M.Friel