Sligo RFC 39
Connemara All Blacks 16
Sligo virtually cemented their Ulster Bank League Status with an all action demolition of the Connemara All Blacks at Strandhill on Saturday. Sligo scored five trys on their way to victory, securing the all-important bonus point and adding generously to their points score difference.
With ground conditions perfect for fast paced rugby, Connemara kicked off with the aid of the breeze and immediately took the early initiative with a Sean Joyce penalty in the first minute. The ‘blacks out-half increased his teams early lead with two further well struck kicks on eight and ten minutes pushing his team into a nine point lead.
Despite this early setback Sligo stuck to their plan and worked their way into the visitors scoring zone. A five yard lineout was secured by James Wilson, the pack drove forward before ‘Man of the match Rory Kerins broke away and crashed over for his teams opening score.
Sligo continued to press and soon found themselves back in a similar positon. This time Peter Mullan took the lineout and the pack rumbled forward. Scrum half Gary O’Hehir moved the ball to Mark Butler and the outhalf expertly side stepped his marker and raced in under the posts. Butler added the conversion to move his side into a three point lead prior to the interval.
On the resumption Sligo further turned the screw and five minutes in a Butler penalty further increase the lead following a ruck infringement.
Sligo pressed on and moved their total into the twenties when Kerins latched onto a spilled pass and raced to the line to dot down under the posts, Butler added the extras.
The home outfit were now in the ascendancy and their defensive pressure was forcing uncharacteristic errors from their visitors. Mc Hale, Conneely and Mc Guinness were edging the battle of the front rows, Mullan and Wilson were lording the lineouts, and the backrow of Kerins, Heath and Ferrari were on top at the breakdown. O’Hehir and Butler were combining well at half back and centres Foley and Fifita continually closed down the midfield threat of the visitors. Sligo’s back three of Lafitte, Gerrity and Hawkins were attacking and defending excellently as a unit.
The locals moved further ahead and secured the bonus point when Hawkins snuffed out a Connemara attack by blocking a chip ahead on the 10 metre line, collecting the loose ball and beating the defensive cover to touch down between the sticks. Butler again converted.
Connemara were not finished and endeavoured to work their way back into the contest. A series of penalties in the Sligo half resulted in the sin binning of Sligo’s O’Hehir and the ‘blacks made the most of the numerical advantage by driving over under the posts to reduce the deficit. Joyce converted to move the score to 29-16 heading into the final quarter.
Sligo reacted immediately and a well struck Butler penalty put paid to the Connemara mini revival before another forced error was picked up by the ever alert Kerins, and the flanker crashed over for his well deserved hat trick. Butler again converted to round off a memorable day for his team.
Sligo’s next assignment in the Ulster Bank league is away to NUIM-Barnhall at Parsonstown next Saturday. NUIM Barnhall are currently sitting third in the league table, equal on points with Highfield RFC. The third place finisher in the league will be rewarded with a play-off against the third from bottom team of Division 2a so a keen encounter is expected. Another interesting aspect of next Saturday’s match will be the presence of Simon Gillespie for NUIM-Barnhall. The outhalf played on the Sligo U18 team that defeated Barnhall in the All Ireland Cup final in 2005.
Sligo:Daniel Hawkins, Hugo Lafitte, Gavin Foley, Matele Fifita, David Gerrity, Mark Butler, Gary O’Hehir, Adrian Mc Hale, Gary Conneely, Shane Mc Guinness, Peter Mullan, James Wilson, David Heath, Rory Kerins, Thomas Ferrari. Reps Brian Keane, Andrew Williams, Sean Donnelley, Ross Mannion, Stephen Butler.
Photos by Rory Raftery – full gallery here on facebook