Belfast Harlequins 12 Sligo 22
Sligo made light of the Christmas break and picked up where they left off in 2018 with a well worked victory over Belfast Harlequins in Deramore Park on Saturday.
Sligo’s win stretches their successful run to 4 from 4 and moves them to within 3 points of third place in the All Ireland League division 2B table.
With no breeze, and a fast surface, Sligo kicked off, and keenly contested outhalf Mark Butler’s kick to immediately put pressure on their hosts. The ball was won back and Christian Nielsen drove into the ‘Quins defence before being hauled down outside the 22. The home team were forced to concede the penalty and Jack Keegan stepped up to bisect the posts and open his, and Sligo’s account.
The hosts fought back to open their own account and earned a penalty outside the Sligo 22 but the kick went wide and Sligo remained in front.
The game was now in full flow with both sides testing the others defence. Sligo stood firm with Kuba Wojtkowicz and Matt Davey prominent in defence , driving back the locals with big tackles.
Sligo’s workrate and pressure paid off midway through the half when Shane O’Hehir latched on to an overthrown ‘Quins line out and drove into the attacking 22. From the resulting breakdown scrum half Ryan Feehily quickly moved the ball left to Wojtkowicz to drive towards the line. Again the ball was moved left and Butler wrong fotted the defence to race in and touch down to the left of the posts. Keegan converted and Sligo were 10 points clear.
Five minutes later Sligo struck again. Pressure on the ‘Quins throw at a lineout on the home 22 forced a turnover. The ball was moved right to left to midfield where Mata Fifita used his power to make a half break before linking up with Keegan. Keegan drew the cover and a well-timed pass allowed winger Calum Goddard the chance to pin his ears back and race to the corner to put the Score at 0-15 going in at the interval.
Following the resumption Sligo continued to press. The powerful scrummaging of Conor Mitchell, O’Hehir and Tom Gormaley and reserve prop Mark Keegan was causing the visitors all kinds of trouble. The engine room of Rob Holian and Ciaran Cassidy were proving a handful at lineout time and in the loose. Enda Gavin was proving his worth in midfield with some excellent defensive work and Philip Carter, as usual was rock solid on the left wing.
Sligo picked up their third try of the day 10 minutes into the half. O’Hehir found Holian at a lineout inside the ‘Quinns 22. Wojtkowicz drove to the right down the blind side before Feehily moved the ball left. David Heath and Fifita carried before Feehily picked at a ruck close to the line and darted in to touch down. Keegan converted to move Sligo even further ahead.
The hosts responded and picked up two late scores but the day belonged to the Visitors and when the referee blew the long blast it was the Sligo faithful that were cheering.
Next Saturday, Sligo host Galway Corinthians in an eagerly awaited Connacht Derby. Having narrowly taken the spoils in the reverse fixture Sligo will be hoping to repeat the dose but Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East are well aware that the tribesmen will be keenly seeking revenge. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hamilton park
Sligo Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Tom Gormaley, Shane O’Hehir (co-captain), Conor Mitchell, Rob Holian, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Christian Nielsen, Matt Davey. Reps : Mark Keegan, Jake Sexton, Euan Brown, Niall Gray, David Heath.