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While Barnhall are highly unlikely to falter on the run-in, the race for a Top Four spot could hardly be closer in Division 2A.  With seven games left to play, Rainey Old Boys remain in second place, by the slimmest of margins and in the coming weeks they face their nearest challengers.

 

By the end of the month, the picture could be a little clearer with these teams meeting rivals, and on Saturday Queen's come to Hatrick Park.  Rainey defeated the students quite easily in an early season SONI Premier League game, but they shot themselves in the foot in the closing minutes at The Dub, Queen's snatching the points with the last kick of the game.  The return of some key players and the home support will make Rainey slight favourites, but Rainey must reduce the penalty count and beware of the threat the visitors carry out wide.

 

On 22 February, Limerick club Old Crescent entertain Rainey at Rosbrien where they are particularly hard to beat.  After a slow start to the campaign, they are on a roll and are on the same points mark as Rainey.  Then,on 22 Feb, Tipperary side Cashel travel north.  Tremendous defence earned Rainey a great 18-15 victory at Spafield and another tight game is on the cards.

 

Rainey II also take on Queen's, while Rainey III entertain Ballymena in the McCambley Cup, both games also at home.  All games start at 2:30 pm

As the business end of the season looms ahead, Rainey Old Boys face a demanding schedule from Saturday until the end of February.  Having clinched the SONI Premiership Section 1 title before Christmas with an impressive home win over Banbridge, they chose to field a shadow outfit in a meaningless fixture against Malone at Gibson Park and were duly hammered.  This decision has been criticised in some quarters, but, in view of the difficult programme that lies ahead, it is perfectly understandable that the squad were given a welcome break.

While Rainey Old Boys can feel well satisfied with their season to date, they know that a very demanding period lies ahead.  Three AIL fixtures, followed by two important SONI Ulster Premiership ties before Christmas will fully test them.

 

In order to be competitive in 2A, they had to replace several players with similar ability and add strength in depth to the squad.  This they managed to do, with the new faces settling in well and making an early impression.  The unexpected availability of lineout star Ronan McCusker has been a huge bonus and the form of young back-row Jack Bresland a real revelation.  If they can avoid long-term injuries, this Rainey squad is capable of holding its own in any company.