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Ulster Bank AIL 10th November 2018
Scorers: Bloomfield(1*Try), Quinn(1*Try), McLean(1*Try), Magrath(3*Conv, 2*Pen)


After losing all three of their opening fixtures in a demanding start to the AIL programme, Rainey Old Boys were determined to bounce back by winning every game in the next block before the Autumn internationals.  They achieved their target, beating Sligo 27-17 at Strandhill to move up to sixth place.  Although they had only won one game before Saturday, Sligo have been competitive, picking up three bonus points.  They played well enough against Rainey to suggest that they can move clear of bottom spot.


With McMurray and Rutledge unavailable and Harbinson ruled out with a broken nose, Rainey's resources were severely stretched, but they battled well for the eighty minutes for a deserved victory.  There is still plenty of room for improvement, but after a two week break, they should be in rude health for the pre-Christmas challenges which they face.  Next up is Belfast Harlequins at home on December 1.


Underfoot conditions were remarkably good considering the rain that fell overnight and the wind had dropped to a breeze by kick-off time.  Rainey got off to an impressive start.  John McCusker rose high to claim the ball and drive forward, with brother Michael in support.  The ball was moved wide and back infield where hooker Fritz took them into the Sligo 22'.  With a wonderful try looking a real possibility, an inside pass ten yards out could not be held and Sligo escaped.  The Connacht men, winners of 2C last season, then showed what they can do as they took some great ball at the tail of the lineout and opened the scoring when a couple of Rainey forwards were spotted encroaching.  Little lapses in concentration like this are among the aspects which have undone much of the good work that Rainey have done in previous games.


Rainey opened their account after 16 minutes when they  went right and back inside from a scrum twenty yards out.  Excellent play by No8 Magowan created the space for Bloomfield to dart through, leaving Magrath with a simple conversion.  Bloomfield, a very consistent performer and a key man in this team, has now scored four tries in the last three games.


The failure of the referee to apply the advantage rule correctly then hurt Rainey.  Following a Sligo knock on, Rainey kicked upfield where the bounce of the ball favoured Sligo.  But, instead of bringing play back for the knock on offence, no decision was forthcoming and a breeze assisted kick downfield took play to the Rainey end where a sliced clearance allowed the home side to counter and find a path through a weak defence.


Two minutes later, Rainey were back in front.  From a retreating scrum, Magowan did well to inaugurate a slick move which culminated in centre Quinn shrugging off a tackle to go in at the posts.  Shortly afterwards, Magrath kicked a fine penalty into the breeze to make it 17-10.  But another example of the indiscipline which must be erased was to make Rainey's task even harder.  When Bloomfield found a little gap from a ruck in midfield, an eagle-eyed referee's assistant drew the referee's attention to the fact that a Rainey forward had prevented a Sligo player from trying to halt Bloomfield.  This transgression cost his side fifty yards.  They tackled well as Sligo piled on the pressure, but, eventually, a big Sligo forward went through for a try which was converted, leaving the score 17-17.  As half-time approached, Sligo were back on the Rainey line and the visitors were relieved to hear the half-time whistle.


Three minutes into the second half, Rainey grabbed their third try, converted from a wide angle by Magrath.  Straight from the restart, they strung together some fine moves and should have scored before left-wing McLean went over in the corner.  A long touch find from Magrath kept Rainey in the right part of the field and good line speed earned them a penalty, but Magrath snatched at his kick at goal.  They remained in control, earning a five metre put-in, but were unable to come away with points.  


Backs Donaghy and Quinn had to leave the field before a missed touch let Sligo back into it.  The westerners' ball carriers took some stopping as they enjoyed a spell of supremacy and some dodgy Rainey play near their own posts had their supporters rubbing their eyes in disbelief.  But a strike against the head enabled them to lift the siege and Magrath landed a vital penalty from 43 yards to put his side ten points in front.  Sligo continued to have a go, but Rainey were not to be denied.


TEAM: M.O'Neill, A.Donaghy, O.Quinn, S.Fitzsimmons, S.McLean, A.Magrath, J.Bloomfield, A.McSwiggan, G.Fritz, K.Donaghy, J.McCusker, M.McCusker, C.Clarke, P.Pritchard, P.Magowan
REPLACEMENTS: A.Browne, M.Mulholland, F.Quinn.