Sligo RFC 20
Belfast Harlequins RFC 16
Sligo picked up their 5th win of their 21/22 Energia All Ireland Division 2B league campaign with a hard fought win over a powerful Belfast Harlequins side at Strandhill on Saturday.
The win moves Sligo to a share of second place in the table, equal on points with Wanderers FC behind runaway leaders Greystones RFC.
Thankfully storm Arwen had mostly abated come kick off time at Hamilton Park and Sligo kicked off playing towards the road end. The visitors took the early initiative with a penalty score after 3 minutes and pulled further ahead with a converted try 10 minutes later with a chip and chase through the Sligo defence.
Sligo knuckled down and began to use their hard running back row of Daire Byrne, Donnacha Byrne and Ross Hickey to drive the defence back. The endeavour was rewarded on 17 minutes when Josh Reeves converted a penalty from 30 meters.
Reeves repeated the dose 5 minutes later with an excellent effort from wide on the left to move the score to 6-10.
Sligo were up and running and their offloading game was causing the visitors all sorts of trouble.
The Yeats men took the lead which they never relinquished with 27 minutes on the clock. A penalty on the ‘Quinns 22 was despatched to the corner. Hooker Matthew Earley threw to Hickey and the pack rumbled forward. The two recycles saw Rob Holian receive 5 metres out and the second row used all his strength to touch down under the cross bar. Reeves added the extras and Sligo were up to 13.
‘Quinn’s came close with a raid down the Sligo right touchline just prior to the interval, resulting in a series of close-in penalties, but the Sligo defensive wall refused to crumble and the turnover was forced and the halftime whistle sounded.
The early second half action was dominated by a kicking battle with both sides looking to gain a foothold in opposition territory.
Five minutes into the half Sligo struck the decisive blow. A lineout on the half way was played off the top by Holian to scrum half Brendan Cunningham. Cunningham moved it quickly infield where Donnacha Byrne carried ferociously. The play was switched back to the left and Phillip Carter timed his pass to release Earley. The hooker burst into the ‘Quinns 22 before being hauled down. The ball was shifted wide again where Byrne , Hickey and James O’Hehir all carried powerfully before a ruck was set 3 meters out. Patience came to the fore as Sligo looked for the chink in the defence and Holian repeated his first half exploits crashing over from close range. Reeves chipped over the extras and Sligo were up to 20.
Quinns responded with a 3 pointer on the 50th minute but it was Sligo that looked more likely to add to the try count with some excellent combination plays and powerful carry’s.
Eddie Coyle and Pedro Bengalo were rock solid in the tight and Matthew O’Haras workrate was a huge asset to the Sligo cause. Enda Gavin and Ryan Feehily were combining well in the centre in both attack and defence, and Guilherme Coghetto and Stefano Giantorno attacked with pace and power when brought into play.
Unfortunately, Sligo were unable to capitalise on the excellent play, getting on the wrong side of the referees whistle at crucial times.
‘ Quinns closed the gap with a third penalty in the 75th minute but Sligo were not going to be beaten and come the final whistle it was the locals that claimed the match points.
Next for Sligo is a visit to table topping Greystones. With 7 wins from 7 the Wicklow men will be full of confidence but Sligo have proved a match for all comers this season and will be travelling with the goal of causing an upset. The match kicks off at Dr Hickey Park at 2.30 next Saturday.
Sligo: Guilherme Coghetto, Stefano Giantorno, Ryan Feehily, Enda Gavin, Phillip Carter, Josh Reeves, Brendan Cunningham, Eddie Coyle, Matthew Earley, Pedro Bengalo, Rob Holian, Matthew O’Hara, Donnacha Byrne, Daire Byrne, Ross Hickey. Reps James O’Hehir, Craig Trimble, Jake Sexton, Sean Wynne, Finn Young
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