AIL Division 2B 1st April 2023

Scorers: M.McCusker(1*Try), Smyth(1*Try) D.O'Neill(1*Try), McLean(1*Pen, 2*Conv)

With the fight for the AIL 2B play-offs going down to the wire, Rainey travelled to Deramore Park last Saturday for the penultimate league match, knowing a defeat would effectively end their season. A 20-22 victory kept their hopes alive for the final round, but they will be relying on several results going their way on 15th April if they are to avoid hanging up their boots for the season.

Rainey started strongly, gaining good ground through wingers M.O’Neill and Crozier.  but a scrum penalty saw them pinned back in their ’22.  A series of catches and mauls by ‘Quins saw them go through multiple phases without scoring, but with the penalty count starting to creep higher, superb disruption by J.McCusker at the lineout gave Rainey the chance to break out. 

A missed penalty to touch a few minutes later gave Harlequins another opportunity to attack, their out-half McKinney eventually sending a clever grubber kick into touch in the Rainey ‘22’.  Rainey easily took the lineout, but another ruck penalty saw ‘Quins tap quickly and drive for the line.  The visitors’ defence held initially, but with ‘Quins coming at them phase after phase, they eventually buckled and conceded a try close to the posts.  The conversion was successful.

A great shove by the forwards earned Rainey a scrum penalty, with the referee adding 10m for backchat, and out-half McLean kicked deep into the Harlequins’ half.  A series of drives by the forwards pushed ‘Quins back, but a turnover saw them kick and chase downfield.  Scrum-half McGinty hared back to cover, but his tackle was deemed illegal and he spent the next 10mins in the bin.

With the home side in full attack mode once more, Fullback Faiva conceded a penalty right in front of the posts, and Rainey were 10-0 down.

Another scrum penalty gave Rainey the chance to go for the corner again, and with the pack starting to assert their authority, it was no surprise when they rumbled M.McCusker over the line a few plays later.  McLean was unlucky with the conversion.

With ‘Quins pinning Rainey back in their own half from the restart, a good clearance by M.O’Neill and covering by Crozier gave the forwards the chance to get their driving game going, with big carries by D.O’Neill and O’Hagan, but they were lucky when another penalty for the home side was pushed wide.

Having ended the first half under pressure, Rainey started the second like a different team, playing some great controlled rugby.  R.McCusker pounced on a loose ball and Rainey relentlessly went through the phases, forcing their way downfield, before a McLean penalty took them back to the 5m line.  The forwards made no mistake and No8 Smyth barged over from close range, with McLean’s conversion giving Rainey the lead for the first time.

A deflected clearance kick from the restart gave them another attacking platform, and once more they worked their way downfield before McLean landed another penalty to extend the lead.

With the Rainey travelling support now expecting their side to pull away, the Deramore men had other ideas.  Forcing their way into the visitors’ ’22, ‘Quins’ out-half launched a perfect cross-field kick for their winger to catch and fall over the whitewash for the score. The difficult conversion was missed, and the sides were evens once more

As the game reached its final quarter, both sides were guilty of trying to force the play, with silly mistakes committed all over the park.  Whilst the Magherafelt pack was definitely becoming more dominant, as they camped in the opposition half, disaster struck.  Conceding an innocuous penalty, no one was ready when a ‘Quins player tapped quickly, and went 2/3 of the pitch untouched to score.  When the relatively simple conversion was sliced wide, Rainey knew they were still in with a shout.

Chasing a score to win, they threw everything but the proverbial sink into their attack, eventually forcing the Belfast side to concede a penalty on their own ’22.  Step forward McLean, and Rainey were in the corner yet again. R.McCusker secured the catch, and the maul was unstoppable, D.O’Neil getting the points.  McLean’s third successful kick gave the visitors the lead and a tense three minutes ensued, as Rainey proceeded to inexplicably kick the ball back to ‘Quins from the restart.

Thankfully, as the blues surged forward, a massive hit by McSwiggan forced a knock-on, and the strength of the Rainey scrum saw them home victorious.

Rainey’s last league game of the regular season will be at home to Galway Corinthians on 15th April.