Nutty Krust Tournament Semi-Final 1 report. By Barney McGonigle

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Nutty Krust Tournament Rainey v Ballymena Semi-Final 1 Tuesday 14th April 2015
The first of the 2015 Nutty Krust Semi-Final games took place at Chamber’s Park on Tuesday 14th April when Rainey U18’s played Ballymena U18’s in a game that was watched by an enthusiastic group of supporters from both clubs as well as an interested band of supporters from Dromore.
The Ballymena team had received a late recall to the tournament when the tournament organisers realised the Portadown U18 team would be unable to participate in the semi-final due to an injury problem. Despite a very spirited performance from the Ballymena team there seemed little they could do to prevent the Rainey team from running out as worthy 50-0 winners.
The Rainey team had opened up a 22-0 lead by the break scoring three tries, as well as one penalty and two conversions in the process. They took a 3-0 lead when Scott McLean converted a penalty opportunity with just three minutes on the clock.
Ten minutes later Declan McCusker and Odhran Islas combined in a play which saw Declan forced into touch just short of the Ballymena line. From the resultant lineout the Rainey team regained possession. Niall Keenan made good use of the ball and combined with Dylan Wilkinson to send the industrious Aidan McSwiggan under the posts for a try. Scott McLean added the extras to increase the Rainey lead to 10-0.
Just after the mid-point of the first half quality possession from a Rainey lineout saw their talented back division make good use of the ball. A free flowing handling attack ended with Declan McCusker touching down for an unconverted try to increase the Rainey lead to 15-0.
The Ballymena team, despite losing their hard-working hooker, Dylan Hacine-Bacha to injury, never lost heart. Players such as Aaron Heaney, Ty Mackness and Ben McIlroy all asked questions of the Rainey defence but found a defence that was in no mood to give anything away.
Just before the interval it was, once again, a combination of quality possession from a Rainey lineout and the effective use of the possession, that saw Odhran Islas finish with a try. Scott McLean added the conversion to put the Rainey team into a 22-0 lead at the break.
Ballymena controlled affairs in the opening stages of the second half with Ty Mackness, Simon Crooks, Jonny Crooks and Philip Jennings all displaying good skills and determination with the ball in hand. However, despite their best intentions they could not find any way through a dogged Rainey defence.
Two quick Rainey tries from Scott McLean and Niall Keenan, both of which were converted by Scott McLean, put Rainey into a 36-0 lead and effectively ended the Ballymena challenge. The Ballymena case was not helped by the loss of a player to the sin bin.
Rainey took full advantage and, from a well-organised driven maul, following a lineout, Michael McElhone displayed great awareness to touch down for a try. Scott McLean was successful with his third touchline conversion of the game to increase the Rainey lead to 43-0.
Immediately from the restart the Rainey team kicked the ball deep into Ballymena territory. The ball was fumbled by a defender which presented Michael Gordon with the opportunity to pick the ball up and run in for another Rainey try. Scott McLean converted the try to increase the Rainey lead to 50-0.
The Ballymena team never gave up and played a lot of rugby with the ball in hand in their Red Zone. They were effective in denying the Rainey team with any real quality possession in the closing stages of the game. At the same time the Rainey defence was effective in denying the Ballymena team any real points scoring opportunities which ensured it was the Rainey team that ended the game as successful 50-0 winners.
After the game the Nutty Krust Man of the Match Award was presented the Rainey winger, Odhran Islas, by Bobby Stewart, Senior Vice-President of the Ulster Branch, IRFU.
The second semi-final of the 2015 Nutty Krust Tournament will take place on Wednesday 15th April when Omagh U18’s will play Dromore U18’s in a game which will kick off at 7-45pm at Chamber’s Park.
The final of the 2015 Nutty Krust Tournament will be played on Wednesday 29th April when Rainey U18’s will play the winners of the Omagh v Dromore game.

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