2nd XV League 1st October 2022

Scorers: S.Hastings(1*Try), Hall(1*Try),  Pollock(1*Conv)


On a day of brilliant sunshine and torrential rain at Hatrick Park, Rainey II came up against the brutal effectiveness of a strong opposition scrum, losing 12-35 against Ballymena II.  While Rainey were more than a match for the opposition in all other aspects, Ballymena were able to use their scrum to generate penalties at will.  Such was the disparity, it is to Rainey’s credit that they only conceded 5 tries, while scoring 2 of their own, with the result still in doubt until well into the final quarter.

Ballymena got off to a good start, powering into the Rainey ’22, but solid defence denied them, and soon Rainey were returning the compliment at the other end. They came unstuck when the forwards were dispossessed at a maul, and Ballymena swung the ball left for the winger to go the length of the field to score the opener.  The extras were duly added.

The next 10 minutes were fairly evenly matched as play alternated between the ‘22s, until second-row Miller created a turnover, grabbing a loose ball at the back of a Ballymena ruck. Seizing the opportunity, Rainey pressed hard, with good driving by flanker S.Hastings and No8 Montgomery eventually earning a penalty just shy of the 5m line.  The first attempted drive fizzled out, but as the visitors attempted to force their way upfield, another penalty allowed out-half Pollock to punt the ball back into the corner.  This time there was no mistake, as Hastings forced himself over close to the touchline.  Pollock was unlucky with the conversion into the wind, the ball glancing out off the left upright.

From the restart, Hastings seemed to be heading for his second score when he burst through the cover in his own ’22 and outpaced everyone, before being hauled down at the Ballymena ’22.  Unfortunately, his reverse pass bounced well for the Ballymena defence and they attempted to run out of defence, only to knock-on.

From the resulting scrum, the Ballymena pack forced a penalty and pinned Rainey back into their own half.  They made excellent use of this tactic as the clock ticked towards half-time, with Rainey continually trying to force their way from their half, only to be pushed back when a scrum resulted.  Ballymena finally got their reward when their No8 took good lineout ball on the ’22 and burst through the Rainey defence to score under the posts to leave an easy conversion.

They almost repeated the trick a few minutes later, but this time the Rainey defence was up to the task and the half ended with no further trouble to the scoreboard.

Having played the first half in glorious sunshine, the second half resumed as the threatening rain arrived.  Rainey were immediately on the attack, the forwards pressing down the left before sending the backs wide down the right.  Showing some great handling skills in the conditions, they ran Ballymena ragged for several phases before drawing a penalty for offside, 10m out.  Tapping quickly, flanker N.Hastings made good ground before deftly offloading a reverse pass to Hall, who scythed through multiple defenders to score beside the posts.  Pollock added the conversion to bring the scores to 12-14.

A mistake at a lineout a few minutes later cost them dear however, as the Ballymena forwards poured through the defence to score once more, the conversion increasing their lead still further.

Back came Rainey, winning another penalty on the visitors’ ’22 when Hall was tackled high.  Time and again, the forwards pounded against the line, with both Hastings brothers coming close, but the Ballymena defence held, eventually winning a penalty to clear their lines. Working off Rainey errors and using the power of their scrum, they worked their way downfield, and it was no surprise that, when awarded a 5m scrum, the No8 scored as they walked the home side backwards over the line.

As the sunshine resumed once more, a great take from Hall at the restart put Rainey on the front foot, but try as they might they couldn’t make a dent in the Braidmen’s defence, and the visitors finished the stronger with another converted try.