Ulster Carpets U18 North 17th February 2018
Scorers: Kearns(1*Try, 3*Conv, 2*Pen), Clarke(2*Try)

Rainey U18s set themselves up very nicely for the league playoffs with a surprisingly comfortable 27-0 win over section winners Ballymena.  Rainey started the game in determined fashion, aiming to put an abrupt halt to Ballymena's unbeaten record this season. The balance of play was very even in the early stages as both sets of forwards set about testing each other out, though Rainey with Kealan Friel having a super game in the 10 jersey, held an advantage in the backs department.


It took Rainey a good 15 minutes to eventually start an attacking phase in the Ballymena 22' as the visitors defended resolutely. The patience eventually paid off as strong carries from Molloy, Evans and McGlone took play to a couple of yards out before captain Clarke was able to pick and go to bustle his way over the line. Centre Kearns converted the first of his 5 from 5 attempts.


Minutes later and a quick turnover and hack downfield allowed Feathers and Friel to pressurise the visiting full back into not releasing on the ground, resulting in Kearns nudging over the easy 3 on offer for Rainey to open a 10-0 lead.


The remainder of the half saw Ballymena react positively as they had a good go at the Rainey defence. Their back row carried well, but were met with a never-say-die attitude from the Rainey lads to keep Ballymena at bay. In fact, with the last play of the half Rainey were nearly in again, following a trademark bullocking run from No8 Molloy, which took play inside the Ballymena 22'.  Unfortunately, a knock-on a couple of phases later meant the chance went a-begging and Rainey led 10-0 at the interval.


The Hatrick Park men began the second half playing downhill and with a slight wind at their backs.  Out-half Friel played the corners perfectly to keep Rainey well on top territorially. The forwards worked their way in to the Ballymena half before a reckless tackle from a Ballymena forward gave Kearns the chance to extend the Rainey lead. This he did with ease to see Rainey 13-0 clear.


From the restart, a rather dubious high-tackle decision went against Ballymena, which again allowed Rainey to get downfield. Off the lineout, good interplay from the backs set up a break down the right by wing Diamond. The forwards worked hard to recycle the ball and get set up to lay siege on the Ballymena line. After numerous phases, good retention and stubborn Ballymena defence, Rainey's patience paid off as Clarke was again on-hand to finish off the pack's hard work, for a really good team try. Conversion from Kearns made it 20-0.


Rainey weren't about to rest on their laurels, as with a 20 point cushion everyone wanted to get in on the act. Strong carries from the forwards and the boot of Friel again took play down to the Ballymena 22'. Their lineout was being used as a launch pad for Rainey in the second half such was the Rainey dominance at the set piece. A clearance from Ballymena failed to find touch around half-way, giving scrum-half Murray the chance to show what he could do as he ran it back down in to the Ballymena 22'.  With a massive overlap and Kearns waiting for the ball on the wing, Friel put in a lovely chip over the top for him to latch on to and finish in the corner. A super kick from the sideline made it 27-0 and Rainey's work was done. 


In the forwards David Evans had a super game both in the set piece and the loose, and the back row of Molloy, McCann and Clarke barely allowed their Ballymena counterparts to get going. In the backs, Murray and Friel dictated things very well and in Kearns and Feathers had 2 centres willing to put in the hard yards to get their dangerous back 3 going.


Next up for Rainey is the quarter final of the league this Saturday away at either Armagh or Randalstown, depending on the final standings in the East section. With the rest of the season being straight knock out across 3 competitions, the boys know performances like this will be required consistently, but they are more than capable of producing them.