Provincial 1 8th February 2020

Scorers: G.Hall(3*Try), Nevin(1*Try), N.Hastings(2*Try), J.Hastings(1*Try), Friel(1*Try), Donaghy(1*Try), Evans(9*Conv)



With the threat of Storm Ciara fast approaching, Rainey II travelled to The Cloughan to face Ballyclare II in the league last Saturday.  In a display of scintillating rugby, they blew up a storm of their own, scoring nine converted tries in a 7-63 victory.  With two thirds of the league programme completed, they have a healthy seven-point lead over the chasing pack, with two games in hand. 


Playing with wind and slope advantage, Rainey were slow to get out of the blocks as Ballyclare opened strongly.  Powerful running from the forwards and lively back play kept Rainey defending, sometimes desperately, as the home side threw everything at them.  The game then took a bizarre twist, when following an altercation off the ball, the referee showed red cards to a player from both sides, and then proceeded to award the visitors a penalty!


Finally, Rainey were able to escape their own half, but even playing into a strengthening wind, Ballyclare were proving a tough nut to crack.  A jinking break by fullback J.Hastings  took play into the home 22', before strong driving by McErlain, McIntosh and Smyth allowed out-half Evans to unleash centre G.Hall to go over in the corner.  Evans smoothly stroked over the first of his nine conversions of the day, and Rainey were off the mark.  But with only fifteen minutes remaining to the break, their supporters were understandably nervous, given how they would be facing the elements in the second half.


A superb catch by N.Hastings from the restart, and an inch-perfect kick by Evans pushed Ballyclare back once again.  Winning the lineout, a poor defensive clearance was snapped up by winger Donaghy and following energetic work by backrow men Brown and Smyth, G.Hall stepped inside the home fullback and cantered 30m to dive over between the posts for his second score in two minutes.


With their tails up, Rainey were now eschewing a kicking game, instead running everything from all over the park.  Good work by Donaghy brought them into the 22', centre Mulholland took them closer, and N.Hastings gave a scoring pass to prop Nevin, from a quick-thinking offload by Brown.


Ballyclare were down, but far from out.  As the seconds ticked towards the interval, they pressed Rainey hard until a defensive slip-up allowed their big centre an easy run-in under the posts, which was duly converted.


Turning around with an even stronger wind at their backs, and only a fourteen-point deficit, the smart money was on Ballyclare, but Rainey had a whole pack of aces ready to upset the odds.  Straight from the kick-off, hard running by backrow B.Hall and Smyth took play deep into the Ballyclare half.  A defensive turnover brought fullback J.Hastings into the attack, and McErlain drove up the middle, before scrum-half Quinn sent a beautifully weighted scoring pass out to Hastings once more on the wing.


Two minutes later, they scored again.  No8 Millar, having an excellent game on his return from injury, took the restart and made yards up the middle.  The forwards rumbled over halfway, and winger Friel split the defence wide open to sprint clear and cross between the posts. 


Quick thinking by G.Hall gave Rainey their sixth a few minutes later.  Spotting the ball was out of a ruck, he pounced and ran in unopposed from 40m to complete his hat-trick. Refusing to admit defeat, Ballyclare enjoyed a prolonged spell in the Rainey 22' pressing ever-closer to the Rainey line in search of a score.  Instead, they provided the setup for the score of the day.  Heading for a certain try between the Rainey posts, a Ballyclare forward was hauled down by McIntosh, and in the resulting scramble, Rainey hacked the ball forward.  Winger Donaghy won the sprint for the ball, gathered it, but was forced towards the right touchline on the Rainey 10m line.  Thinking quickly, he threw a reverse pass which was gathered and sent left.  The scrambling Ballyclare defence withstood a couple of phases, but visibly wilted as second-row N.Hastings broke through on half-way.  He made it to within 10m of the tryline before being caught by chasing winger, but evaded the tackle to score between the posts.


He added another a few minutes later, running it in from the Ballyclare 10m line after Donaghy stripped the ball from an attacker.  Donaghy also got in on the act as the weather deteriorated.  Strong running by Friel forced a defensive lineout 10m out, which Ballyclare duly won, but kicked downfield in to the arms of the waiting Donaghy.  Setting off upfield, he twisted and danced through defenders before breaking through and running in unopposed from the 22'.


There were still a full fifteen minutes still on the clock, but with the effects of Storm Ciara becoming more and more apparent, the referee brought the match to a close.  Rainey now face a return match against Queen's II at Hatrick Park next Saturday.  As the only team in the league to deny Rainey a bonus point this season, the game between these two sides promises to be a cracker.


Team:  J.McIntosh, M.Caithness, A.Nevin, A.Doherty, N.Hastings, A.Brown, B.Hall, M.Millar, L.Quinn, H.Evans, A.Donaghy, G.Hall, M.Mulholland, M.Friel, J.Hastings

Replacements: C.Smyth D.McErlain, R.Kearns