River Rock Towns Cup 11th January 2020

Scorers: G.Hall(1*Try), M.Nevin(1*Try), R.Kearns(1*Pen, 2*Conv), (2*Pen Try)



With steady rain and a brisk wind blowing across the pitch, spectators gathered at Sandel Lodge for the first round of the River Rock Towns' Cup  between Coleraine and Rainey could have been expecting a dour display of "up-the-jumper" rugby.  If so, they were to be pleasantly surprised.  Both teams largely belied the conditions, serving up an entertaining thriller.  The result was in doubt until well into the final quarter, with Rainey emerging eventual victors on a 16-31 scoreline.


As has so often been the case this season, Rainey immediately put themselves under pressure from the kick-off.  Allowing the ball to bounce, they immediately found themselves trying to clear their lines from behind the posts.  A turnover for Coleraine made the situation worse but, as for most of the game, their defence held and Kearns was able to clear to half-way.  Coleraine, who normally play two leagues above this young Rainey team, were looking sharp, with their backs threatening at every opportunity.  When they broke left, only a great tackle by winger Mulholland saved a certain try, and they were soon camped on the Rainey 5m.  Multiple phases left and right stretched Rainey across the pitch, and it was no surprise when they were eventually pinged for offside, giving Coleraine an easy penalty to open the scoring.


Almost immediately, it was Rainey's turn, as they finally got stuck in to the home side.  Smyth and McErlain carried strongly, and Kearns released winger Friel, who caught the ball at his bootlaces to keep the move alive.  Flankers M.Nevin and Caithness charged for the line, before prop McIntosh was stopped just short.  Hastings and Doherty had their turn as the rain returned, but when the backs were unleashed, centre Hall was unable to hold on to a pass and the move collapsed.


They were soon back, when a superb kick from Kearns on halfway bounced into touch within the 5m.   Coleraine claimed the lineout, but good pressure from O'Neill meant their clearance setup was poor, giving flanker M.Nevin the opportunity for a great chargedown.  The deflected ball soared across towards the posts and Hall was quickest to react, claiming it and driving over from short range.  Kearns converted.


Coleraine added a penalty, before their big pack began to step it up a gear.  Winning a 5m lineout, they set up a maul.  The defence held, but when Coleraine released their backs, their speedy centre scythed through a huge gap in midfield to dot down under the posts, the conversion stretching their lead to six points.  Once more, Rainey forced their way close, until a great steal by Doherty at a 5m lineout set up another Rainey attack.  Caithness drove up the middle and M.Nevin was driven over by the pack, touching down under a mass of defenders. 


With Rainey running the ball at every opportunity, the next scoring attempt came somewhat against the run of play, but the Coleraine kicker sent his shot at goal wide.


A strong surge by McIntosh a few minutes into the second-half drew a penalty advantage, and his fellow prop McErlain was quick to capitalise with a body-strewn charge towards the posts.  Dragged down 5m short, first Friel, then Caithness and McIntosh once more, were all held up short before Kearns was duly called upon to kick the points.  Stung into action, Coleraine enjoyed a 10 minute spell attacking inside the Rainey 22'.  Again, dogged defence held them at bay until Hall was binned somewhat unjustly, and Coleraine took the penalty on offer to tighten the race once more.  It was to be their last.


Clearly irked, the 14 Magherafelt men tore into the opposition from the restart, stealing the ball and powering their way relentlessly downfield before winning a 5m lineout.  With a maul clearly on the agenda, Coleraine declined to engage, and a mix-up in the Rainey forwards saw them concede the scrum.  However, a huge shove allowed hooker O'Neill to take the ball against the head and scrum-half J.Hastings broke blind, but was stopped short.  The forwards piled in, and fullback Devlin got close, before McIntosh was held up over the line.  Scenting blood, the pack demolished the Coleraine scrum and the referee headed for the sticks to award a penalty try.


From the restart, Rainey were straight back again.  Friel had a good break down the left wing, and M.Nevin, McErlain, Doherty and O'Neil carried the ball to the right of the posts before winning another 5m scrum.  The result was as before, with the Coleraine scrum resorting to a wheel and again the ref awarding a 7-pointer.


For the remaining ten minutes, Coleraine threw everything they had at Rainey, but there was no way back for them.  As the match drew to a close, M.Nevin was shown yellow and Rainey were back to 14 men.  Once more, Coleraine went for the corner in hope of a consolation score, but Caithness stole their throw-in and Kearns was on hand to clear the line for the final time.  This was a great result for Rainey, but they will know they have work to do if they are to maintain their winning ways in the League which resumes next weekend with a home fixture against Grosvenor II.


Team:  J.McIntosh, D.O'Neill, D.McErlain, A.Doherty, N.Hastings, M.Nevin, M.Caithness, C.Smyth, J.Lloyd-Evans, R.Kearns, M.Mulholland, G.Hall, A.Brown, M.Friel, C.Devlin

Replacements: A.Nevin, J.Hastings