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Energia AIL 2A 25th January 2020

Scorers: Connolly(3*Pen, 2*Conv), McMurray(1*Try), Magrath(1*Try)

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NUM Barnhall won all 18 AIL games they played in 2019, and a victory over Rainey Old Boys on Saturday would have equalled the record 29 consecutive AIL wins held by Terenure College.  Having edged home 8-3 in a high-class thriller at Parsonstown in early December, the return game promised to be worth seeing and the crowd that gathered at Hatrick Park were not to be disappointed.  A ding-dong affair saw the lead change hands several times as the outcome remained in doubt right until a last kick penalty gave Rainey a 23-15 victory.

 

This contest was a marvellous advert for rugby at this level, ranking with the best games ever seen in Magherafeit.  While Barnhall should still win the league at a canter, there is a tight race for the top four.  Rainey are well-placed, but cannot afford any slip-ups.  With a few key men unavailable, Rainey brought in Paddy Magowan to ease their selection problems and, inspired by the loose play of dynamic hooker Brad Roberts, the players worked themselves to a standstill.

 

Rainey got off to a great start when the ball came back on their side and Barnhall were penalised at the ruck.  Winning the subsequent lineoout at the tail, another decision in their favour allowed full-back Connolly to open the scoring.  Barnhall enjoyed a spell in Rainey territory, but the tackling, especially by Roberts, kept them at bay.  Both sides were blown for crooked put-ins, a real rarity nowadays, as play swung from end to end.  McAuley was taking some good lineout ball for Rainey as both sides were guilty of making little errors following good approach play.  Barnhall scored in the corner after 29 minutes, but Rainey then poured forward, going through the phases and holding onto the ball well.  A Barnhall forward was yellow carded just before the break, allowing Connolly to give Rainey a 6-5 lead.

 

With the breeze behind them, Rainey, thanks to the efforts of Roberts and Fitzsimons, found themselves in the right area of the pitch, but were thwarted a couple of times before, from a scrum five metres out, Bloomfield fired out a long pass for centre McMurray to storm through for a try which Connolly goaled.

 

Rainey chose to handle in their own half and were to pay the penalty.  The visitors accepted their chance to get forward, using their big forwards to rumble into the 22'.  When an inviting gap opened up, Rainey were undermanned at the back and a two-to-one situation brought them a try at the posts.

 

Connolly was just wide from 50 yards, before a partially blocked kick landed fortuitously in the arms of Roberts, who put his side on the front foot.  The handling was sure, as Barnhall defended their line stoutly until Rainey were certain that they had scored.  After some consideration however, the referee thought otherwise.  Wing Moran dropped a ball to cause some dismay in the home ranks, but he redeemed himself by racing back to help deal with a dangerous situation.

 

Barnhall sneaked ahead again on 62 minutes when a charged down kick led to a penalty, but ten minutes later, a series of attacks ended with Magrath crossing for a superb try which Connolly converted.  A yellow card for Brockschmidt was the boost Barnhall needed, but the Rainey tackling did not relent and they gradually worked their way to the other end.  Eight minutes into time added, a penalty decision to Rainey on the 22' was greeted by a huge roar which was even louder when Connolly split the posts.  This victory was duly celebrated in style.

 

TEAM: M.Connolly, N.Stirling, D.McMurray, C.Fitzsimons, C.Moran, A.Magrath, J.Bloomfield, C.Hume, B.Roberts, F.Quinn, C.Brockschmidt, P.Magowan, A.Bratton, J.Bresland, J.McAuley
REPLACEMENTS: K.Donaghy, A.Donaghy, M.McCusker, J.McIntosh, A.Harbinson