Sligo RFC 19 :: Ballina RFC 20
Sligo’s bid to create an unprecedented Connacht Junior double fell short by the narrowest of margins when they lost out to Mayo neighbours Ballina in the Cawley cup final at Glenina on Sunday. In a superbly fought contest Ballina’s hunger proved the deciding factor in a contest worthy of any final.
Ballina kicked off playing with the aid of a strong gale and soon Sligo were put under pressure with some fine use of the wind by the Ballina half backs. The early pressure was absorbed with some fine defensive work particularly by centres Matele Fifita and Gavin Foley but Ballina moved into a six point lead with two penalties from Outhalf Cory Brown.
Sligo began to settle and worked their way back into the game. An Aaron Spring touchline run gave Sligo field position in the Ballina 22 before the ball was moved infield. Fifita drove forward before linking up with the Sligo pack. From the resulting ruck scrum half Paddy Pearson fed outhalf Mark Butler who danced his way through the Ballina defence and touched down to the right of the posts. Butlers well struck conversion attempt into the strong breeze came back off the upright to put the score one point in favour of the Mayo side.
With the wind freshening Ballina continued to press and were rewarded with an excellently taken try on the half hour from full back Kieran Rouse. Brown converted to to move the half time score to 13-5.
The second half began with Sligo making use of the strong breeze. The Sligo lineout, with James Wilson to the fore was beginning to reap rewards and Fifitas physicality in midfield was causing problems for the mayo defence. Fifteen minutes in, an excellent Butler chip landed just short of the Ballina line. Full back rouse looked to be in control but the ball squirted free and Sligo winger Aaron Spring pounced on the loose ball to touch down and double his teams total. Butler added the extras to set up a one point game.
Sligo continued to chase the game and on the midpoint of the second half another moment of Butler skill moved his team ahead for the first time in the contest. Another Fifita break gave Sligo field position in the Ballina 22. Quick work at the breakdown gave the outhalf the chance to attack his opposite number and Butler superbly drove through the defence to touch down right of the posts. A well struck conversion kick put Sligo 19-13 ahead.
Sligo looked to close the game out but Ballina were not to be out done and with two minutes left on the clock, following a sustained period of continuity, scrum half Micheal Murphy darted through a gap to touch down left of the posts. Browns well struck conversion denied Sligo their first Cawley cup title. Photos from the game can be viewed here.
Uniquely, Sundays game acted as a dress rehearsal for the Heineken Connacht Junior cup final to be held at the Galway Sportsgrounds next Sunday. Both teams must lock horns again for the right to lift the premier Connacht Junior cup trophy. Sligo will be eagerly looking to avenge what was only their second competitive defeat of the season. Kick off at the Sportsground next Sunday is at 3pm.
Sligo; Niall O Hara, Aaron Spring, Gavin Foley, Matele Fifita, Billy Leahy, Mark Butler, Paddy Pearson (Capt) Ross Mannion, Gary Conneely, Adrian Mc Hale, James Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Cathal Culhane, Simon Coulter, Peter Mullan. Subs Wesley Maxwell, Martin Feeney, Brian Hynes, Frankie Feeney,Trevor Sweeney.