Sligo remain at the top of the Connacht Junior league Division 1 when they secured their first ever bonus point win over Athlone based side Buccaneers at Dubarry Park on Sunday.
The visitors racked up 5 Trys against the physical midlands outfit, who challenged them all the way to the final whistle. Buccaneers won the toss and elected to play with the aid of the breeze. Paddy Pearson’s high kick off was keenly contested by the Sligo pack and this early pressure gave them a foothold in the home teams half. The work of the pack was rewarded after 4 minutes when the ball was moved left to right across the backline on the Bucc’s 22. Quick ruck ball was produced and scrum half Billy Leahy switched the play back towards the left touchline. Fast hands saw the ball transferred to winger Julian Rippon who outpaced the cover and scored in the corner. Jack Macklin’s well struck conversion effort was narrowly wide. A perfect start for the visitors. From the kick off Sligo again went on the attack, bringing their backline into play at every opportunity but their enterprise was not rewarded as the final pass let them down on a number of occasions. Continue reading ‘First XV still top of the pile!’
Sligo had a lucky escape in their final JL1 league game of the season when a last-play injury time try from right wing Julian Rippon secured victory against Galwegians by 21-19 in Strandhill.
The visitors were a very useful, young outfit who showed plenty of attacking ability on the day, and outscored the home team by three tries to two but Sligoâ€™s fullback David Gerrityâ€™s three penalties and one conversion proved the difference between the teams. Speedy winger Rippon grabbed both of Sligoâ€™s tries, and after an injury strewn season Rippon will be delighted to have his name back on the scoresheet.
Sligo will be happy to finish the season with a victory and Sundayâ€™s result will be an important confidence booster for the upcoming vital Heineken Junior Cup Quarter-Final against arch-rivals Ballina. This win also caps Sligoâ€™s most successful league campaign in recent years and while the players are sure to be disappointed to only finish 3rd having led for most of the season, they can take heart in their superb performances throughout the season and hopefully will be able to make a run in the upcoming cup competitions.
Sligoâ€™s ten game unbeaten run finally came to an end on Sunday as they lost 21-5 to a superb Corinthians side in Corinthian Park. This win lifts the Galway side to the top of the table, and puts them firmly in the driving seat for the league title.
Sligo advanced to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup with a comfortable 0-22 away victory over Ballyhaunis on Sunday. Ballyhaunis who are a league below Sligo in JL1B never threatened a Sligo side, who sit atop JL1, and while the home side played with plenty of spirit the gulf in class was always going to be too much to overcome.
A clinical, gutsy display in difficult conditions saw Sligo overcome a strong Corrib challenge by 17-0 to make it seven from seven and cement their place at the top of the Connacht JL1 League in a wet, wind-swept Hamilton Park on Sunday. Last weekâ€™s dour struggle at home to Tuam had led some pundits to declare that this was the week when Sligoâ€™s luck would run out and their unbeaten run ended, but a heroic effort from Sligoâ€™s forwards ensured that it was to be victory number seven for the Yeatsmen. Sligo coach Joe Walsh reacted angrily to his sideâ€™s inept performance against Tuam with a number of changes. Upfront the consistent Cathal Culhane returned at flanker, with the athletic Kim Williams making his first start of the season. It was the backline where Walsh really wielded his axe with club stalwart Gavin Foley switching to out-half, joined by a new centre partnership of Andrew Feeney and the powerful Mataele Fifita, and a first team call-up for tricky winger Brian Hynes after his four-try salvo for the seconds last weekend. Corribâ€™s league position belies their performances this season so far as they have suffered a five point deduction for off the field offences, and the gritty Galwaymen were expected to pose a major question to a Sligo side that has been suggested to have ridden their luck on occasion this year.
League leaders Sligo were given a major fright by a determined Tuam side in their Halloween weekend fixture as they struggled to an unconvincing 10-7 victory on Sunday last, November 2nd, in Hamilton Park. Fresh from their bye-week, Sligo were looking to make this their best start to a season in recent memory but were expecting a battle against a Tuam side that were looking to make in three wins in a row following impressive victories over Ballina and OLBC. Sligo were forced into a few changes from the side that defeated Castlebar in their last outing, not least the loss of their hugely influential out-half Paddy Pearson who is unfortunately out for the rest of the season. Pearson was replaced at ten by the returning Kakaber Machitidze, who was joined in the backline by the tricky David Gerrity, fully recovered from injury. Sligo also welcomed back star forward, James Wilson, whose lineout ability has been one of the key features of Sligoâ€™s unbeaten start to the season. Club stalwart Peter Mullan switched to number eight, with Joe Sweeney and Mataele Fifita making up a big-hitting back-row.
Cheered on by large home support, enjoying the benign weather conditions, Sligo looked to make a quick start, and had an early opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty 35m out. However Machitidze, looking to add to the 32 points he had already contributed this season, pulled his kick narrowly wide. Sligo continued to press and on ten minutes a great drive inside his own half by the industrious Jamie Bowes allowed Sligoâ€™s backs to move the ball wide where good hands from Gavin Foley and Joe Sweeney released the towering Tongan, Fifita, on the half way line. Storming down the left touchline, two huge hand-offs saw him smash his way through the hapless Tuam defence, all the way to the line for a wonderful individual try.
JL1 table-toppers Sligo stumbled to a desperately unconvincing victory at The Green in Creggs on Sunday, escaping with a narrow six point victory against a Creggs side, which remains rooted to the bottom of the table. Sligo came into the game hoping to maintain their unbeaten record and continue the trend of expansive, attacking rugby that they had showed in last weekâ€™s glorious home victory over Loughrea. Sligo made a number of changes from that game, with Sligo head coach Joe Walsh again rotating his squad and resting a number of key players. Adrian McHale and Ross Mannion were recalled to the front row with Joe Sweeney also taking his place in the Sligo pack. Sligo also reshuffled their back three, with the exciting Nick Reynolds moving to full-back where he was joined by Andrew Feeney and Ted Mulvaney on the wings. On paper the game appeared nothing more than a formality for a high-flying Sligo side, but just as Munster showed in their desperate last-gasp victory over Montauban on Friday, rugby isnâ€™t played on paper.
Sligoâ€™s recorded a gritty win over local rivals Ballina in a dour, hard-fought encounter at Hamilton Park last Saturday, September 27th. Following Sligoâ€™s impressive opening day victory away to Buccaneers, hopes were high amongst the large home crowd for a similar display against a Ballina team who also had an opening day away win to their name. Sligo made three changes from the squad for the Buccaneers game, hit by the late withdrawal of influential vice-captain David Greene, who failed a pre-match fitness test and who was replaced in the back-row by Jamie Bowes. Andrew Feeney and Joe Sweeney were also recalled to the squad with both on substitute duty. Sligo lost last years corresponding fixture by 6-3 and a similar close encounter was expected.
Sligo began brightly and some early attacks asked questions of the Ballina defence. A good break by lightening fast winger, David Gerrity, led to a Ballina infringement for offside and an early Sligo penalty. Fullback Kakaber Machitidze, who was faultless last week with a 100% display from the boot, took the kick but in a stiff breeze his effort dragged wide. Sligo continued to press and with Sligoâ€™s set pieces again looking solid, they took the game to Ballina but despite their efforts were unable to create any scoring opportunities. The away side made their first foray into Sligo territory on ten minutes when they forced a line-out only five metres out, however Sligoâ€™s tight defence drove them back. Ballina retained possession and an excellent break down the right touchline by their backline saw Sligo winger, Nick Reynolds, make an important tackle and force his opposing number into touch. From this line-out Sligo regrouped and an angled kick from centre Gavin Foley pushed Ballina back to their own 5m line. Sligoâ€™s lineout dominance continued when they forced a Ballina infringement and were rewarded with a penalty 5m out. This was ambitiously kicked to the corner as they sought the games opening try. The lineout was won, but the Sligo drive was held up by a committed Ballina defence. A knock on saw Sligoâ€™s frustrations spill over and a brief interchange between Sligo prop Adrian McHale and Ballinaâ€™s Paul Neary saw both men sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
Sligo took the game to Ballina upfront and their dominance in the tight led to a series of attacking scrums deep inside the Ballina 22m. The rain began to engulf Hamilton Park halfway through the half as the Sligo pack turned the screw on their opposing eight. On their third scrum on the Ballina 5m line, Sligo tried to spread it wide but a handling error saw the ball go loose, but luckily it fell to fullback Machitidze whose quick thinking saw him pop over an opportunist drop goal from 15m out to hand Sligo a deserved 3-0 lead. Ballina were handed their first points scoring opportunity straight from the restart when a Sligo mistake led to a Ballina penalty in front of the posts. However out half Cory Brown let Sligo off the hook, pulling his kick wide. He had a chance to atone for his error minutes later when Sligo conceded another penalty but this time his gallant effort from 40m out again fell just short. From the drop out Sligo slowed Ballinaâ€™s ball, and some illegal use of the boot from the frustrated Ballina hooker, Richard Kelly, saw him sent to the bin. Sligoâ€™s lineout which was completely dominant in this half was again called into action from the resulting penalty and Ballina could only stop them illegally and conceded a penalty within kicking range. Machitidze stepped up and struck his kick sweetly between the posts to extend Sligoâ€™s lead to 6-0.
The final ten minutes of the half saw Ballina begin to get a foothold in the game, as they tried to open up the game with out half Brown becoming more influential and a number of his impressive breaks led to the Sligo defence becoming severely tested.Â One of these breaks led to another penalty for the away side but again they couldnâ€™t convert. Ballina tried to penetrate the Sligo tryline but some huge hits and hard work drove them back, with captain Ross Mannion leading by example with some fine defensive work. In injury time Ballina again pressed but a relieving clearance kick moved possession back in to the Ballina half, and a brave chargedown by Gerrity saw Sligo out half Paddy Pearson hack on and turn defence into attack. Retaining the ball, Sligo drove forward in numbers with James Wilson and Jamie Bowes making vital yards. Sligo suddenly added width when Pearson released Gavin Foley, whose sweet flick pass found Fifita loitering with intent out wide on the 22 and the powerful Tongan charged at the line, breaking three tackles as he crashed over for a vital try. Machitidze added the extras and Sligo grabbed a 13-0 halftime lead.
Ballina who would surely have felt aggrieved conceding a score against the run of play, were dealt a further blow when the superb Brown was unable to continue after the break due to a nasty looking hand injury, This led to a backline reshuffle for the away side with substitute James Cawley joining the fray. However Ballina started the second half showing no signs of any discontent when forcing an early penalty but were again disappointed when the kick dragged wide. The first ten minutes of the half were frantic and error strewn with both sides creating little. Ballina finally opened their account on 57 minutes when a Sligo infringement led to a penalty 22m out and fullback Andrew Moynihan slotted over to make it 13-3. Sligo looked distracted and further ill discipline saw them hand Moynihan another kickable opportunity, and he made no mistake this time with another three points to leave only a converted try between the teams. It was all Ballina now, and a penalty kicked to the corner saw them drive at the line, and a number of phases saw Sligoâ€™s organised defence again called into action. This concerted pressure ended when Moynihan attempted an ambitious drop goal which came up short as Sligo began to grimly try to hold on.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, the away side continued to attack and urged on by their travelling support forced Sligoâ€™s Nick Reynolds to take an excellent mark inside his own 22m. His kick however did not relieve the pressure and a six-phase attack saw Ballina again drive forward and an incisive break by their winger Simon Wade was only stopped by a last-gasp tackle by Pearson. Searching desperately for a try, Ballina poured forward, but Sligoâ€™s immense defence was impenetrable. The pressure was relieved with a break by Gerrity, followed by a trademark Fifita drive. With possession on their oppositions 22m line, Foley chipped through but was hit late, presenting Machitidze with a penalty to secure the points. However he uncharacteristically pulled it to the right to give Ballina one last attack with time almost up. A break down the left gave them a chance, but a hard tackle by Reynolds forced a turnover and the referee blew for full time.
Sligo â€“Â A McHale, R Mannion (C), M Feeney, P Mullan, J Wilson, C Culhane, J Bowes, M Fifita, B Leahy, P Pearson, N Reynolds, G Foley, A Taureareawa, D Gerrity, K Machitize.
Replacements â€“ A Feeney, G Conneely, J Sweeney (All used)
Ballina â€“ A Moynihan, S Wade, D Newman, I Thornton, D Howley, C Brown, M Murphy, A McNulty, P Timoney, P Neary, C Forde, D Carribine, A Brown, R Kelly, T Tolan.
Replacements â€“ C Melvin, M Kneafsey, J Cawley (All used)
The opening day of any season is one often filled with anticipation, excitement, and even fear. No matter what the sport a season curtain-raiser allows players, coaches and fans alike to dream about what might be. Dublin GAA fans, Spurs soccer fans, and Leinster rugby fans know only too well how quickly this sense of eternal optimism can be dashed as their team stutters to kick their season into gear. With these mixed feelings of anticipation and trepidation, Sligo travelled to Dubarry Park in Athlone to kick off their season against the formidable firepower of Buccaneers. Sligo had failed to win away from home last season, and faced a tough task against a Buccaneers side that boasted an impressive mix of youth and experience.
Sligo started with a near full strength line-up that included a number of new faces, with Mataele Fafita, Andre Taurerewa and Paddy Pearson all making their debut in the red jerseys. In ideal conditions for rugby Sligo began brightly and within two minutes some excellent offensive defence work forced Buccaneers to cough up a penalty on their 22m line in front of the posts. Full back Kaka Machitidze confidently struck his kick over to hand Sligo an early 3-0 lead. Straight from the restart Buccaneers forced their way into Sligo territory and won a penalty deep in Sligo territory, surprisingly they kicked to the corner and won a line-out on the Sligo 5m line. However, setting the tone for the first half, Sligo defended superbly and some big hits forced a turnover. Sligo moved forward and began to test the Buccaneers defence. This pressure was finally turned into points when a well placed tactical kick by out-half Paddy Pearson led to Sligo turning over a Buccaneers lineout 10m out and the forwards drove their way powerfully over the line to force the gameâ€™s opening score. Flanker Cathal Culhane was the man who emerged from the maul with the credit for the score. Kaka Machitidze made no mistake with the difficult conversion and Sligo moved into a commanding 10-0 lead with ten minutes on the clock.
The early encounters had been played a fearsome pace and this did not relent as Buccaneers retaliated quickly to Sligoâ€™s unexpected start with another penalty kicked to touch and rewarded with a line out 5m from the Sligo line. A pre-planned line out routine looked to contain a forward pass but it was missed by the referee and Buccaneers drove over to register their first score of the season. The conversion was missed cutting Sligoâ€™s lead to 10-5. Unfazed by the controversial score, Sligo pressurised straight from the restart and a huge hit by Tongan No.8 Mataele Fafita won Sligo a penalty 30m out. This was again expertly put away by the unflappable Kaka Machitidze to push Sligo 13-5 ahead. The game was now end to end with both teams taking advantage of the new ELVs to produce some free flowing rugby with both teams looking dangerous in attack. Scrum-half Billy Leahy produced a turnover from a Buccaneers scrum and Sligo attacked down the right flank with winger David Gerrity and James Wilson combining to nearly force another try which was only narrowly denied by an excellent try-saving tackle.
Sligoâ€™s aggressive defence was proving the key to the first half with big hits and hard work in the loose laying the foundations for the team to build on. On the half hour mark again this aggression turned defence into attack, winning a penalty 30m out when a Buccaneers player was penalised for not releasing. Machitidze was making kicking look easy in the benign conditions and this one was no different as he bisected the posts once more to push Sligo 16-5 in front. Machitidze added another penalty shortly after from an infringement in a ruck as Sligoâ€™s industrious first half work continued as Buccaneers began to get frustrated. This frustation boiled over in first half injury time as a Buccaneers player was extremely fortunate to get away with a disgraceful two-footed stamp on a prone Sligo player. On video evidence this looked a certain red card if spotted by the referee. Following a slight melee between both sets of players following this ugly incident the referee blew for half time with Sligo leading impressively by 19-5.
Sligo started the 2nd half just as they had finished the first, the pack working hard to steal a Buccaneers line out and a sharp break by Fafita gave Sligo a promising attacking lineout on the Buccaneers 22m line. This lineout was pulled down and Sligo were again rewarded with an early penalty. Machitidze made it six out of six for the day with another accurate kick to increase Sligoâ€™s lead to 22-5. Sligo piled on the pressure and another break, this time from new centre, Andre Taurerewa, gave winger Nick Reynolds a chance to show his pace down the left wing. Reynolds kicked through and only some desperate last-gasp defending from Buccaneers stopped Sligo from scoring their second try of the afternoon. Sligo continued to pressurise the line with Fafita and Wilson making some great headway as Sligo dominated the early exchanges of the half. Buccaneers looked rocked and the rest of the game appeared to be a formality for a Sligo side in complete control.
However the momentum of the entire game was changed by a sensational Buccaneers try on the hour mark. Their backline which up until this point had been very quiet suddenly exploded with a break from their outhalf, Andrew Hayman, he linked up well with a number of support runners and two quality offloads led to Buccaneers No.8 Mark Madden going over in the corner for a vital score. This score inspired the home side and with Hayman becoming increasingly influential they started to get on top and take the game to a Sligo side that were starting to look a little jaded. Sligoâ€™s cause was not helped by a harsh yellow card to flanker Cathal Culhane on 75 minutes for a late tackle, and Buccaneers continued to attack in an effort to secure a bonus point. This point was attained with three minutes remaining as the pressure finally told on the defiant Sligo defence when a quick penalty led to a Buccaneers try in the corner to close Sligoâ€™s lead to 22-15. Suddenly a game that seemed dead on the hour now looked wide open, and with a vocal home support behind them Buccaneers went in search of a match saving score. Thankfully for Sligo a knock-on when in good position by Buccaneers signalled the end of the game and a relieved Sligo registered their first away win in over a year by a final score of 22-15.
As season openers go this was an excellent victory on a ground where results have not been favourable to Sligo in the past. For an hour they looked like a side going places with forwards Fafita and Wilson to the fore, and captain Ross Mannion influential in the loose. Pearson looked assured at outhalf with his distribution and tactical kicking good, while in fullback Machitidze Sligo have a reliable and deadly place kicker. They dominated the set pieces with their scrum in particular looking strong; the forwards looked well drilled and punished the home side with their aggressive rucking and defence. The final quarter of the game was error-strewn by Sligo and mixed with some ill discipline this allowed Buccaneers back into a game that looked over at half-time. This can be put down to Sligoâ€™s lack of match practice and with this opening game under their belt, Sligo coach Joe Walsh will be looking to continue this form in the upcoming league games. As Sligo RFC president Conor Frazer commented after the game it â€œwas a great start and provides a platform to build on for rest of the seasonâ€?. And for the many Sligo supporters in attendance it allowed them to continue to look forward with anticipation to the rest of the season, with any trepidation quickly blown away by the exciting, flowing rugby shown in that promising first hour.