Ulster Premiership Division 1 Group B 2nd September 2023

Scorers: O'Hagan(1*Try), J.Hastings(1*Try), O'Neill(1*Try), McLean(1*Pen, 2*Conv)

Following last week’s close 32-36 home defeat to Armagh in the opening salvo of the newly revamped Ulster Senior League, Rainey were on the road this weekend to AIL 2A side Malone.  Rainey’s starting XV showed three changes from last week.  Mark Mulholland started on the wing, while Adam and Lee Montgomery took up positions in the backrow.  The addition of Kieran Doherty and John McCusker to the bench completed the reshuffle. 

In excellent playing conditions, both sides started brightly, but it was Rainey who were first on the scoreboard.  From a scrum penalty, outhalf McLean found a good touch in the Malone 22’, and a maul from the lineout gave them the perfect platform for prop O’Hagan to peel off and score.   McLean converted.

Malone came back strongly and pinned Rainey in their own half, but the dominance of the Rainey scrum and some poor handling by the home side meant they never came close to scoring.   Indeed, from one such error, Rainey centre J.Hastings intercepted a loose pass on his own 10m  and cantered downfield to score under the posts giving McLean his second conversion.

Pressing another attack, Rainey almost came to grief when a steal on the Malone 22’ allowed their speedy out-half the sprint the length of field.  Only superb covering back by fullback Speers broke up the attack, but Malone were able to use the field position gained to eventually force their way over on the cusp of halftime to reduce the deficit at the break to seven points.

The home side again piled on the pressure as the game resumed, but eventually came away with only three points as the Rainey defence held firm.  Rainey regained their seven-point advantage as McLean slotted over a penalty following some excellent work by scrum-half Quinn, and as the clock edged towards fulltime, they extended it further when hooker O’Neill dived over following a textbook 5m lineout and maul.  Crucially, McLean was just wide with his only miskick of the day.

Pressing their attack again, Rainey lost lock J.McCusker to the bin for a high tackle, and as Malone made use of their numeric superiority, the frantic Rainey defence lost backrow S.Hastings for a ruck offence.  With a two-man advantage, Malone scored a converted try off a 5m penalty and repeated it a few minutes later for another five points to tie the game.

In the end, the visitors’ indiscipline cost them a game they should have been able to close out, but they will be happy to have come away with a share of the spoils.

TEAM: T.O’Hagan, D.O’Neill(c), A.McSwiggan, T.Hutchinson, R.McCusker, B.Hall, A.Montgomery, L.Montgomery, L.Quinn, S.McLean, AJ Browne, A.Brown, J.Hastings, M.Mulholland, R.Speers
SUBS: B.Davis, K.Donaghy,J.McCusker, S.Hastings, A.Donaghy