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All-Ireland League Semi-Final
Scorers: Molloy(2*Try), Kearns(1*Pen, 1*Conv)

 

Rainey Old Boys U18s travelled to Ashbourne RFC on Saturday to face Leinster champions Skerries in the Semi-Final of the All Ireland League and despite a heroic effort fell to a very hard fought 22-15 defeat. A late and very harsh penalty try finally gave the Leinster champions a bit of breathing space in a most entertaining encounter between two very good sides.

 

With a stiff breeze behind them Rainey made the perfect start as from a ruck outside the Skerries 22 they were penalised for being offside trying to clear their lines. Up stepped Kearns to open the scoring with a sweetly struck penalty to nudge Rainey 3-0 in front within two minutes.

 

Skerries playing in to the wind knew they would have to carry hard and this they did through their visibly bigger pack but they were met with ferocious defence all afternoon. They were helped along the way with some poor indiscipline which allowed them to build an attack in the Rainey half. Following sustained pressure from their pack they worked their way towards the Rainey line and eventually squeezed in at the left corner to go 5-3 in front.

 

Rainey responded by playing the game on their own terms deep in the Skerries half. The front five were winning their own ball with ease and after a promising attack broke down five metres out, Rainey turned the ball over at the Skerries put in. No8 Molloy's simply wasn't going to be stopped despite the best efforts of the Skerries back row. Kearns converted

 

More indiscipline was allowing Skerries back in to the Rainey half needlessly and it was to undo Rainey's hard work just before half time. For a good five minutes they were peppering Rainey's line, being held up twice and being met with some thunderous hits. Eventually they went through their forwards again and their energetic back line finally got in to gear to put their left winger in at the left hand corner, levelling the scores at 10-10.


Rainey knew they would have to come out fighting in the second half, as Skerries with the wind behind them, would try to get play deep in the Rainey half. This they did from the off as their out half displayed a very nice right foot on a few occasions to put the squeeze on the Rainey defence. Ten minutes of sustained pressure was met with resilient defence, but eventually Skerries right winger breached the Rainey defence out wide to put them ahead 15-10.

Ryan Kearns
Ryan Kearns

 

Rainey came back positively and strong carries from the pack showed that they were more than capable of taking Skerries on all over the pitch. Good ground was made on a couple of occasions but handling errors and more indiscipline allowed Skerries to work their way in to Rainey territory. Despite a clear knock on in the line out, Skerries were allowed to play on and nearly score at the posts but scrambling Rainey defence held them at bay. From the resulting scrum Skerries were pushed back to about ten metres from the Rainey line. A high tackle from Kearns should have resulted in a penalty only, but much to the amazement of the Rainey team and spectators, the referee decided it was worthy of a yellow card and a penalty try even though there was more than enough cover both left and right of the tackle being made. A quite simply staggering decision which left Rainey 22-10 down with only five minutes to play.

 

From the kick off Rainey were pinned inside their own 22 but won a relieving turnover penalty. A quick tap and go released the backs to make good ground and take play to halfway.  Carry by carry Rainey were making ground towards the Skerries 22. A penalty for a ruck infringement allowed Rainey to take play deep in to the 22 and after serious pressure from the forwards, Molloy was on hand again to finish a spectacular length of the field effort with only fourteen men on the pitch. It really did sum up the never-say-die character of the squad to keep going to the end. The missed conversion into the strong wind brought proceedings to a close and Skerries had done just enough to edge it 22-15.

 

From a Rainey perspective it was a performance full of heart, passion, pride and skill that will stand well to the team as they prepare for the latter stages of the Ulster Cup. From 1 to 23 they were a credit to themselves and to the club but unfortunately came up just short to a good Skerries team, who they wish all the best to in the final.

 

This Saturday the boys are away to Randalstown in the semi-final of the cup.  The last time the sides met, Rainey ran out commanding 36-7 winners and a repeat performance would put them into the final at Kingspan Stadium on the 28th April against Armagh. Kick-off is at 11:00am and all support would be welcome and appreciated for such a huge game.