This game was not as straightforward as Instonians might have hoped. They faced a very determined Rainey side that gave them plenty to think about.
Instonians got off to a perfect start when their captain Stephen Douglas finished an early attack by running round behind the posts for a try converted by Nick Finlay. At 7 nil after 4 minutes Instonians must of thought they were cruising. But Rainey made it clear that they had not travelled up to Belfast to be routed. They struck back with two long range penalty kicks by fullback O’Connor to make the score 7-6 with 14 minutes gone.
It did not take Instonians long to react. After a penalty award they moved deep into Rainey territory. Full back Scott Browne then finished an excellent back move to outstrip the defence and score in the corner. Out-half Nick Finlay was just wide with the conversion. Things were definitely swinging Instonians way when inside centre Seamus Mallon made a clean break from far out to canter home for a try at the posts which Finlay had no trouble making into a seven pointer.
Suddenly Rainey found a wide gap in Instonians centre, which they poured through. Some deft handling and quick recycling allowed them to score their own converted try at the posts.
At 19-13 after half an hour it was “game on” again. Instonians were clearly stung by this try and quickly exerted strong pressure with their own break down the middle of the pitch. Left wing Robbie Kirk scored a very determined try to bring the score to 24-13 after 33 minutes. This also brought Instonians a valuable bonus point fourth try. Rainey had one last opportunity to score before half time when a penalty kick from 40 metres hit the upright and bounced out into grateful Instonian hands.
Following a first half, which had been full of excitement, and some good running rugby we looked forward to a similarly stimulating second half. But it was not to be. There was plenty of endeavour – particularly from Rainey who mounted attack after attack and enjoyed a monopoly of possession. This was largely due to Instonians falling foul of the referee who gave a stream of penalties against them. Even when they did break out and launch their own attacks they seemed doomed to displease the referee and let Rainey off the hook.
Mid way through the second half substitute scrum-half, Alistair Andress, came on; but his stay did not last long! Rainey were attacking in waves close to the Instonian goal line when young Andress was adjudged to have held on to the ball. He was given a yellow card and sent on his way for 10 minutes. In fairness the yellow card appeared to be more of a team one than personal to the unfortunate Andress. Just when it was expected that Rainey would take advantage of the extra man Instonians burst away to relieve the pressure and almost score themselves. This was an excellent attack led by Alistair Andress’ brother Nicolas who had also come on as a substitute on the left wing.
The second half ended scoreless, which was a bit disappointing when one considered the quality of the first. Instonians Director of Rugby, Clem Boyd, will not be completely satisfied with the result. He will be concerned about the high penalty count and a tendency to get on the wrong side of the referee at the breakdown and at some scrums. Nonetheless, Instonians march on with a bonus point and four wins out of four in the league. That can’t be bad!