A 33-19 scoreline would suggest a fairly comfortable victory, but it was certainly not the case at a cold and dark Shaw’s Bridge.
Rainey Old Boys were unable to dispose of the challenge of a plucky Instonians side which so nearly forced a draw, but saw a losing bonus point slip from their grasp.
The Magherafelt men looked home and hosed at several stages of the game, but they failed to put the game to bed by putting themselves under unnecessary pressure and in the process subjecting their supporters to torture in the closing minutes.
At the start of the AIL programme, Rainey hoped to be in a top four position after the first seven games, so they will be very happy to be five points clear of the chasing pack.They are, however, fully aware that there is a long way to go with a number of potential banana skins along the way.
With wind advantage, Instonians made all the early running. Out-half Mullany missed a penalty, but then caused havoc in the Rainey rearguard with a little kick through.From a five metre scrum, they used the narrow side for Mc Keen to cross in the corner.
Rainey finally got a touch of the ball when O’Connor put them in an advanced position and a good scrum gave them the platform to work an opening for centre McClelland to score at the posts.
Instonians replied with a penalty, but Rainey struck again after 16 minutes with a superb try. Clarke made good ground on the right before finding No.8 McGowan on his inside and O’Connor arrived in support to finish off the move and again add the extras. This was his seventh try of the AIL campaign.
They remained in the Inst half with some impressive play until a long touch kick forced them back.Mullany missed a kickable penalty before Simpson and Heaney took Rainey forward again, but a spell of heavy pressure failed to produce a score and late in the half a drop goal left them only 14-11 ahead.
With the prospect of wind advantage to follow, it was still a good position to be in.
A long kick from Martin was just what the doctor ordered on the resumption and some great scrummaging brought them a try from captain O’Kane with a yellow card for an Instonians prop thrown in for good measure.
But,instead of closing out the game, Rainey proceeded to make a stream of careless mistakes which encouraged the opposition who crept closer with a penalty.
A wayward pass on halfway from McMurray spoiled a clear chance for Rainey who were shocked by an Instonians try after 62 minutes.
O’Connor did well to stop scrum -half Andress when he evaded several tackles, but a patient approach resulted in a try. The conversion attempt rebounded off an upright.
The experience of Simon Hawe was called upon as Rainey went about regaining the lead. Prop O’Kane secured a bonus point with his second try which was almost a carbon copy of his first. O’Connor converted.
Rainey had a close call when a charged down kick put them in trouble. O’Connor was just off target with two long range kicks at goal before he badly miscued a kick out of hand which had his team defending desperately in the dying minutes.
Instonians looked sure to score when Mullany threw out a long pass to the wing, but Campbell soared to intercept and run the length of the field, much to the delight, not to mention relief, of the Rainey contingent.
Rainey Old Boys: M. O’Connor, A. Clarke, M. McClelland, D. McMurray, R. Lamberton, G. Martin, S. Simpson, N. Amos, S. Sufferin, P. Boyle, M. Shiels, A. Harbinson, P. McGowan, P. Heaney. Replacements: T. Barker (Boyle 40), T. Burns (Heaney 54), S. Rutledge (Amos 62), A. Campbell (Clarke 62), S. Hawe (Harbinson 62)
Rainey’s next Ulster Bank League match is on January 19 at home to Boyne/
DIVISION 2B RESULTS
Boyne 14 Armagh 12
Connemara 3 Sunday’s Well 22
Naas 14 Thomond 6
Navan 18 Nenagh Ormond 15
Barnhall 44 Suttonians 22
Skerries 23 Ards 6