QUB 40 - 24 RAINEY

Ulster Senior Cup Quarter-Final 23rd September 2023
Scorers: M.McCusker(1*Try), R.McCusker(1*Try), Montgomery(1*Try), McLean(3*Conv, 1*Pen)

With their second placing in Ulster Premiership Division 1 Group B earning them a quarter-final place in the Ulster Senior Cup, Rainey were back on the road to The Dub this weekend to face AIL 1B side Queen’s. Despite a great 1st-half, the students came back strongly and ran out eventual winners on a 40-24 scoreline. After a good showing for the IIs recently, Ethan Canavan made his 1st XV debut on the left wing and acquitted himself well once more.

In excellent playing conditions, Rainey punched their way deep into Queen’s territory, but the students’ capacity to speedily turn defence into attack soon had the visitors scrambling back in defence. Lock Hutchinson won a lineout and backrow M.McCusker made a magnificent break close to the home 22’, before scrum-half Quinn was tackled high. Out-half McLean slotted over the penalty and Rainey were in business.

Queen’s responded soon after, a great penalty kick taking them to just outside Rainey’s 22’. Winning the lineout, they fed their centre, who inexplicably was able to slide through the Rainey defence to score in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful.

Another McLean penalty took Rainey into the home 22’, and they attacked through several phases, before a speculative crossfield kick handed the ball to the defence, and soon Rainey were scurrying back to defend in their own 22’. Gradually, they worked their way back downfield until the forwards won a great scrum penalty and McLean sent them into the Queen’s 22’ once more. The first attempted maul was snuffed out illegally, and when McLean kicked to the 5m line, the forwards made no mistake, M.McCusker crashing over from short range. McLean added the extras.

Rainey had to soak up some intense pressure, before a great scrum around halfway saw centre J.Hastings instigate a lovely break down the left which eventually led to another penalty and 5m lineout. No8 S.Hastings eventually worked his way over from the maul, but was deemed to have been held-up. With the restart going out on the full, Rainey were rewarded with a 5m scrum and a few pick and go’s later, lock R.McCusker added his name to the scoresheet. McLean’s conversion was good.

Again, Rainey’s restart let them down, with a knock-on, a penalty and 10m added for backchat taking the ball to the their 5m line. A knock on by Queen’s spared their blushes, but it was to be short-lived as the lively Queen’s scrum half was soon waltzing through the Rainey defence to score the home side’s second try. The half ended with Rainey defending frantically on their tryline, but they successfully kept the students at bay.

The resumption saw the game continue in lively fashion. Rainey won a penalty when R.McCusker was taken out going for a high catch, and flanker Hall charged down a box kick attempt, but it was clear the students were going to run the ball wide at every opportunity. During one such attack, McLean rushed out of the line, anticipating the play. As he made the tackle, his opposite number bent to collect the ball resulting in head-to-head contact, and Rainey were reduced to 14 men. Queens took their chance and drove over for a score, with the conversion giving them the lead.

With Rainey’s discipline fraying, a late hit brought Queen’s back to the 5m line a few minutes later. Rainey withstood multiple phases, making tackle after tackle, but eventually the extra man told and the home scrum-half dove over from the base of a ruck for his second of the day. The conversion was good.

A great drive gave Rainey a scrum penalty and when fullback AJ Brown launched a superbly accurate kick to the 5m line, Rainey had a chance to claw something back. The catch was good, and the maul brought another penalty advantage, but try as they might, the Rainey forwards couldn’t break the defence. Another penalty brought a 5m scrum and with McLean restored, Rainey should have scored. However, Queen’s secured a turnover and temporarily relieved the siege.  They were soon back in the same position and once again Rainey pounded away from 5m to no avail. Eventually they went to the backs, but the Queen’s defence again forced a turnover and cleared their lines.

With 70 mins on the clock, and Rainey visibly wilting with the pace of the game and the number of tackles being made, Queen’s made a sudden steal on the right wing, flashed the ball the width of the pitch along their 10m line and burst through the Rainey defence to score in the corner. A great conversion added 2 more points.

A few minutes later, counterattacking from their own 22’, they worked an overlap and again went the length of the pitch to grab another try and conversion. A third almost followed, but Rainey turned the tide and a huge long-range penalty brought them another lineout in the Queen’s 22’. This time they made no mistake, mauling the entire way to line before replacement flanker Montgomery went over for the score. McLean’s conversion brought matters to a close.

Rainey’s next match is their opening AIL game against Sligo at Hatrick Park on 7th October.

TEAM: T.O’Hagan, D.O’Neill(c), A.McSwiggan, T.Hutchinson, R.McCusker, M.McCusker, B.Hall, S.Hastings, L.Quinn, S.McLean, E.Canavan, A.Brown, J.Hastings, M.Mulholland, AJ Brown

SUBS: M.Nevin, K.Donaghy, J.McCusker, L.Montgomery, A.Donaghy