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Ulster Bank AIL 23rd September 2017

Scorers: Magrath(2*Pen, 2*Conv), Pritchard(1*Try), Crooks(1*Try)


The clash of promoted clubs Navan and Rainey Old Boys attracted a big crowd to Balreask Old where they saw Rainey hold on for a deserved win in a high class, thrill-a-minute affair.  The Old Boys had only thirteen players on the park when Navan scored to creep closer, but they defended heroically in their new change strip to take the points and make up for not getting the rub of the green against Old Crescent on the opening day of the AIL.


Few, if any, sides will leave Navan with anything, so this is just the boost Rainey needed.  Out-half Andy Magrath got his line moving really well throughout the game, opting to keep the ball in hand most of the time against the blustery wind and his place-kicking was exceptional.  The tackling of the backs had to be spot on and it was.  The pack worked their socks off against a very big Navan unit with Pritchard and Barker outstanding.  John McCusker stole some great ball in the lineout, but on the three occasions when they went to the corner rather than go for the posts, Navan denied them good ball.


With Ronan McCusker back in the squad after injury, Rainey started well.  Dominating possession, they carried the game to the opposition and a great passage of play which took them from their own 22' was sparked off by Pritchard and Roberts.  Rainey lost full-back Quinn with a blood injury which could not be dealt with, but Magrath gave them the lead after seven minutes.  Navan were always dangerous when they tried to break out against the wind, but generally found themselves on the defensive.


Frustration was setting in as a steady flow of penalties halted their progress and kept the score down.  Navan had a forward sin-binned, but they still managed to push Rainey off the ball in a great attacking position. The picture was to change dramatically in the next three minutes.  When John McCusker took it forward with support from centre McIlroy to stretch Navan, play was switched from right to left and back again for Pritchard to nip in for a badly needed try which Magrath converted with a superb effort into the crosswind.


Navan made a mess of the restart for Rainey to move back to the home 22' where they created numbers on the right for replacement wing Crooks to hold his nerve, pick up a bouncing long pass and dot down for a vital score in the corner.  Again, Magrath judged the wind to perfection. Navan gave themselves some hope with a penalty, but it was Rainey who threatened towards half-time and it took a brilliant tackle to bring down Pritchard as he stormed into the 22'.


Rainey knew that a 17-3 lead could be overhauled and they were fortunate when Crooks intercepted a high pass deep in his 22' to take play into the Navan half.  A good little spell of play earned Rainey a valuable penalty and they very nearly broke clear out of defence as they continued to handle the ball with confidence.  Navan scored an unconverted try after 55 minutes and Lamberton was called on to produce a big tackle when they surged forward again.  Rainey looked good again on the attack, but a dropped pass had them scuttling back to usher the home left-wing into touch in the corner.


The pressure was really on when Pritchard was shown the yellow card and disaster was staring Rainey in the face when Roberts was also dismissed.  The inevitable pushover try soon followed leaving Rainey to empty the tank.  Pritchard returned  for the last few minutes.  Penalties took Navan back to the corner where they were bundled into touch.  An invigorating game and a superb win for Rainey.


TEAM: O.Quinn, R.Lamberton, J.McIlroy, D.McMurray, P.McCusker, A.Magrath, K.Donaghy, B.Roberts, T.O'Hagan, T.Barker, J.McCusker, P.Stewart, A.Harbinson, P.Pritchard

REPLACEMENTS: S.Crooks, F.Quinn, S.Rutledge, M.McCusker, R.McCusker