Ards RFC 16
Sligo RFC 20
Sligo’s resurgence in the Ulster bank league continued in earnest with a well constructed away win at the aptly named Hamilton Park in Newtownards on Saturday. A powerful performance from the Sligo pack coupled with an excellent defensive back line showing ensured that Sligo came away with a precious 4 league points from the days encounter.
Played in calm conditions it was Sligo who took the early initiative and enjoyed the lions share of the possession in the opening exchanges. Sligos front row of Adrian Mc Hale, Gary Conneely and Shane Mc Guinness were solid in the scrum and Peter Mullan and Paddy Conlon were secure at line out time.
The first scoring opportunity arrived after 15 minutes when Sligo were awarded a penalty following a ruck infringement on the Ards 10 metre line. Daniel Hawkins elected to go for the posts but his effort drifted wide. Four minutes later another penalty award gave Hawkins the opportunity to redeem his earlier miss and the out half bisected the uprights with a well judged effort from wide on the left side.
Sligo continued to apply the pressure and their well worked maul was causing a lot of difficulty for their hosts. The back row of Rory Kerins , Paddy Conlon and Aidan Mc Nulty were on top at the breakdown and scrum half Billy Leahy was controlling things well from the base. Sligo’s back three of Hugo Laffitte, Cathal Finneran and David Gerrity were dealing well with any arial threat and were countering with purpose.
The opening try arrived on the half hour. A penalty on the 22 was expertly despatched into the corner by Hawkins. Conneely linked with Mullan at the lineout and the maul was immediately constructed. The pack drove over the line and Conlon was on hand to secure the touchdown. Hawkins added the extras.
Ards responded, and a McLean penalty opened their account but Sligo immediately responded with another well struck Hawkins penalty to move the half time score to 13 points to 3 in favour of the visitors.
The second half saw renewed vigour from the hosts and Sligo’s defensive system was put to the test but good work from Gavin Foley and Matele Fifita ensured that the midfield door remained locked.
The visitors moved further ahead half way through the second half. An excellent scrum break from Mc Nulty opened up the home defence and the number 8 expertly linked with Fifita. The giant centre brushed off the would be tackler and used his pace to beat the remaining cover to the line for a well worked score. Hawkins again added the extras.
Ards were stung into life and looked to assert their game on their visitors. Two penalties in quick succession followed by a well taken McLean try brought the match to an exciting conclusion, but Sligo were not to be outdone and it was the travelling support that cheered loudest when the referee brought the game to a close.
Next Saturday Sligo play host to table topping Cashel RFC. Cashel are unbeaten in the League this season but on current form Sligo are a match for anyone so an exciting game is expected. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Strandhill.
Ards. G Wilson, M McLean, M Taylor, A Hazzard, N Beggs, P Cox, M Banford, M Weir, C Piper, J Wylie, D Calvert, J Mc Carvey, M Harrison, N McMillan, S Minnis. Reps B Diver, M Busby, J Dawson, J Dowey, A Foster.
Sligo. D Gerritty, H Laffite, M Fifita, G Foley, C Finneran, D Hawkins, B Leahy, A McHale, G Conneely, S McGuinness, J Bowes, P Mullan, P Conlon, R Kerins, A Mc Nulty. Reps. R Mannion, B Keane, D Heath, A Williams, G O’Hehir.
Ref K Barry (IRFU)