Sligo RFC V Corinthians RFC
Under 18 League Semi Final
11th January 2015, 11th January 2015
In the first of two semi-finals, Sligo took on their old rivals Corinthians in a vicious dogfight to secure a chance to compete for the League title in three weeks’ time. Soggy underfoot conditions made it a day for the forwards while a wicked cross field wind blowing consistently throughout the match proved problematic for both kickers. Despite the weathers best efforts, the game drew both a crowd and top performances from the two sides.
Corinthians opened the match by launching the drop-off deep into the Sligo pack, testing them under the high swirling ball. A series of strong carries asked questions of the Corinthians resolve but a forced pass in contact handed momentum to the away side. Sligo demonstrated superb discipline in defence with Liam Mc Elhinney and Darragh Cummins putting in bone shaking tackles to blunt the Corinthians forward advances.
The game broke up slightly with each set of players looking for weaknesses in their well-prepared counterpart’s line. The scrum provided a solid platform for both sides but it was Sligo who capitalised first. The combination of a clever break up the middle and a mammoth clearing kick from T.J. Ford gave the Sligo men field position, buried in Corinthians’ 22. Pressure at the lineout and marauding runs from the likes of Ciaran Cassidy and Shanae O’Hehir left Sligo five metres short of the try line and Corinthians with a man in the bin for consistently slowing the ball down at the breakdown.
One man to the good and tails up, Sligo shifted into fifth, the rolling maul proving to be a most potent weapon against a floundering Corinthians pack. The extra man began to take its toll, the Corinthians line spread thin and ragged. Two successive pods off yet another scrum sucked in any would be tacklers then a snap back to the blind side from Neil Murray left Jack Keegan in space and diving for the whitewash. Unfortunately Keegan, kicking into the gusting breeze, couldn’t convert the resulting kick.
From there on in it was all Sligo. Possession, position and phases began to stack up but the home side lacked the clinical edge to strike while the iron was hot. Corinthians were now back to full strength and putting plays of their own together. Gradual yards and flowing backline moves started to cause trouble in the Sligo lines and a lapse in concentration led to a highly kickable penalty in front of the posts. Corinthians place kicker made no mistakes in putting the ball between the sticks.
Sligo ended the half with a flurry but a knock-on ten metres out left them frustrated going into the break.
Changes at scrumhalf and flanker added physicality to the Sligo line in an attempt to liven up the play and put a dent in the Corinthians on rushing carriers. Keegan set the game rolling again with a high punt into the Corinthians 22. Much like the previous half, Sligo started the better of the two teams but with a stronger sense of urgency about their general shape and play.
Cassidy’s and Jake Sexton’s domineering presence at the lineout chocked Corinthians of their own ball while the backline became more involved with harder lines and increasingly fluid moves. The ever present menace of Sligo’s rolling maul became Corinthians bane with their inability to deal with it effectively resulting in another Sligo try, T.J. Ford finishing off beside the corner flag after a ten metre drive and a sustained pick-and-go drive at the Corinthians line. Keegan pushed his conversion attempt to the left and wide of the uprights. Sligo had another chance to add to their lead but a forward pass at the last minute denied Sligo another possible seven points.
Corinthians responded in kind with a try of their own shortly after, casting off any delusions regarding their capacity to win. An uncharacteristically lax Sligo defence enabled the Galway men to gain ground and, inevitably, a path to the try line. A successful conversion left the sides level at ten all, Corinthians asking all the questions.
Reorganised and refocused from the restart, Sligo created opportunities for themselves with clever field kicking and smart play management. Sligo’s perseverance paid off, the source; the rolling maul. A smooth lineout led to a maul being set up. Together, united, the Sligo pack drove forward, ten metres out, five metres out and Mc Elhinney crossing the line with ball in hand. Ford stepped up to slot home the extra two points from the touch line into the strengthening wind.
Never giving up, Corinthians clawed their way back into the Sligo 22 to set up a position from which to get the score that would draw them level for the second time. Sligo put their bodies on the line but to no avail as Corinthians scored in the corner. The following conversion struck the upright and bounced wide leaving Sligo 17-15 going into the final four nerve racking minutes. Corinthians threw everything they could at Sligo but they held firm. Fresh replacements added that extra defensive oomph needed to see out the victory.
One final penalty gave the replacement scrumhalf, Ryan Feehily, the simple task of booting the ball into touch, bringing the game to a close. Sligo won 17-15 which is enough to see them through to the final in the Sportgrounds in three weeks’ time after a hard fought match between two of the best sides in Connacht.