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Energia AIL 2A 11th January 2020
Scorers: Roberts(1*Try), O'Hagan(1*Try), Magrath(2*Pen)
Photos
 
Having already beaten Ballymena twice by a comfortable margin this season, Rainey Old Boys were warm favourites to come out on top when they met at Eaton Park.  But, despite a two-week rest, it was a lacklustre Rainey side that made too many unforced errors which the battling Braidmen cashed in on and it took a late try to salvage a 16-16 draw which keeps them in second place, only one point ahead of the chasing pack.  Runaway leaders Barnhall come to Rainey on January 25.
 
 
Rainey led 8-3 after half an hour to look sure to move on with the prospect of wind advantage after the break, but, with Andy Magrath having an off-day with the boot, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot and in the end were perhaps thankful to settle for the two points.
 
Out-half Small gave Ballymena an early lead as they enjoyed territorial supremacy without really causing Rainey any problems.  McAuley took some good ball at the front of the lineout as the Rainey pack began to show some life.  They established a great attacking position, but came away with nothing.  However, they drove some thirty yards from the next lineout for Roberts to cross for a super score.  Magrath's conversion attempt landed on the crossbar, but stayed out-it was to be that sort of a day.
 
 
Centre McMurray found a gap as Ballymena generally defended very well.  Spurred on by this, prop O'Hagan initiated a series of drives which gave scrum-half Bloomfield an opening.  Under pressure, two high tackles allowed Magrath to extend Rainey's lead.  But the picture was to change within minutes as two loose kicks were to cost Rainey ten points.  Small found the target, via the crossbar, and then converted when full-back McBurney came in on the blindside from a scrum on halfway.
Late in the half, a great piece of mauling by O'Hagan helped Rainey win turnover ball and stretch the home defence from side to side in their 22'.   This blitz of attacking earned Rainey a penalty, but Magrath pushed his kick past the post.
 
 
From another lineout in the corner, Rainey again failed to control possession and Fitzsimons made a promising break, but was unable to find support.  A well-struck shot at goal again sailed just past the post as frustration began to rear its head.  Time and again Roberts made ground, but on the day his support was just not sharp enough.  Magrath made no mistake from 30 yards on the hour mark as driving rain moved in to make conditions really demanding for the players.
 
 
Ballymena reached the Rainey 22' for the first time in the second half when they took a strike against the head and, when a Rainey scrum collapsed on their own put-in, Small made it 16-11 with a fine kick.  Yet another great position was wasted before a spell of heavy pressure and good ball retention brought Rainey a penalty in front of the posts.  The pack drove for the line to the right of the posts with O'Hagan getting the touchdown to leave the scores level.  A relatively simple looking conversion in such circumstances is, however, not a simple matter and the kick glanced off the outside of the post.  Finding themselves in their own 22' two minutes later, Rainey were relieved to hear the final whistle.
 
 
Team: M.O'Neill, A.Donaghy, D.McMurray, C.Fitzsimons, M.Connolly, A.Magrath, J.Bloomfield, T.O'Hagan, B.Roberts, F.Quinn, A.Bratton, J.McCusker, C.Hume, J.McAuley, C.Brockschmidt
 
Replacements: K.Donaghy, M.McCusker, J.Bresland, A.McSwiggan, N.Jeffers