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Rainey bidding to bounce back by hitting stride against leaders

 

by michael sadlier

Having licked their wounds from last week's dramatic defeat at the Dub, Rainey Old Boys head south for their biggest test yet when they come up against unbeaten leaders Barnhall.

They hadn't bargained on losing at Queen's; Ritchie McMaster's last-play drop goal denying Rainey what had seemed destined to be a draw - but had no complaints at seeing a five-game winning run end after such a below par performance against the students.

"At the end of the day, we got a point from a game we might still have won even though this all came from playing poorly," said Rainey director of rugby Brian Smyth.

"Some guys just weren't switched on from the start and I think we deserved what we got."

With Rainey six points behind Barnhall, the Magherafelt club need to avoid letting their hosts get any further ahead while also keeping a close eye on Cashel who are only two points behind in third.

Jack Bresland comes in at flanker while, behind the scrum, Marti Connelly returns and looks likely to start at full-back.

As for fourth-placed Queen's, their second successive Ulster derby sees Derek Suffern's side travel to Ballymena who are in seventh.

"We slipped to three defeats (before Rainey)," said Queen's team manager Chris Moore.

"And if we want to eat into Barnhall's lead then we have to win every game as they (Barnhall) as well as Rainey and Cashel are mostly churning out the wins so we can't slip up."

The students expect to have scrum-half Conor McKee but are unsure if full-back Ethan McIlroy will be released by Ireland U20s, while centre Stuart McIlwaine is out with concussion.

In 2B, eighth-placed Belfast Harlequins are at Galwegians but go there having accounted for lowly Ballina last weekend.

Dungannon, in ninth and already looking as if themselves and Quins are in a dogfight to escape being one from bottom, are at second-placed Greystones.

Bangor host Omagh in 2C for what is the Upritchard Park side's second straight home Ulster derby.

Situated in ninth, Bangor badly need to pick up another win against the Accies who are third.

City of Derry, who narrowly defeated Bangor in the last round, entertain leaders Enniscorthy.

2A: Barnhall v Rainey Old Boys, Ballymena v Queen's University.

2B: Dungannon v Greystones, Galwegians v Belfast Harlequins.

2C: Bangor v Omagh, City of Derry v Enniscorthy.

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