AIL 2B – Honours Even At Strandhill

Sligo RFC 27

Skerries RFC 27

Sligo had to dig deep to come from behind to earn a well-deserved 3 points in a roller coaster All Ireland League 2B encounter at a windy Strandhill on Saturday.

Despite the drawn result, come the final whistle it was the home side that gained a slight advantage, as they picked up the all-important 4 try bonus to go with the two match points with the visitors having to be content with 2 points having only scored 3 trys.

Playing towards the airport end with the advantage of the swirling breeze, Sligo kicked off and immediately tried to pressurise their opponents. With their lively backline, the visitors looked to put width on the ball early, but Sligo’s defence stood strong early on and an error was forced on the halfway. Skerries impinged at the scrum and Sligo went right from the resulting free kick. The play was switched back with Euan Brown putting Tom Gormley through the middle before a handling error allowed Skerries to clear.

Relief was short lived however as a clever Ryan Feehily chip and an excellent Shane O’Hehir chase camped Sligo on the visitors line. The ball was moved wide to the right where Mata Fifita used all his strength to power over five metres from the corner. Jack Keegan added a super kick to get the maximum benefit for Sligo.

With 7 minutes gone Sligo struck again. From a midfield scrum Mark Butler kicked down the right hand side. The Skerries full back failed to deal with the situation and Keegan latched onto to the loose ball, kicking ahead and winning the chase to the line for Sligos second of the day. The winger added to his tally with another well struck conversion and Sligo were 14 ahead.

Skerries came roaring back and brought their strong running backs into play. Sligo were struggling to retain any useful possession and the visitors profited with a three try blitz in 8 minutes to overturn the deficit and take a 7 point lead of their own.

Sligo coach Paddy Pearson made some slight adjustments and Sligo regained the momentum with a scrum penalty earned by Conor Mitchell. The gap was narrowed to two just before the break when Rob Holian powered his way over from 5 yards out following some fine approach play by Kuba Wojtkowicz , Matt Davey and Enda Gavin.

Following the resumption Skerries were awarded penalties on the 45 and 50th minutes to push the lead out to 8 points before Sligo clawed their way back again. A Mitchell burst on the halfway set the ball rolling before Holian and Gormely added to the drive. Replacement Scrum Half Brendan Cunningham fizzed the ball to the right and Butler threw out a long pass which was picked up by openside flanker Sean Wynne. Wynne linked up with Keegan before receiving again from Brown and racing in wide on the right.

Keegans conversion was ruled out by the touch judges to the dismay of the spectators behind the goals who were convinced that the kick was good.

Brown levelled the scores with 10 minutes remaining with a well struck effort into the breeze from outside the 22, but despite late Sligo pressure the scorekeeper was untroubled from then to the end of the match and both sides had to be content with the draw.

With other results on the day favouring Sligo, the three points has pushed the Yeats men up to 4th on the division 2A table with 6 games to go. Next Saturday Sligo travel to Magherafelt to lock horns with Rainey Old Boys who lie one place ahead of Sligo in the league table. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hatrick Park.

Sligo Mark Butler, Jack Keegan, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Brendan Cunningham, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily(co–capt) , Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir (co-capt), Tom Gormely, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Matt Davey, Sean Wynne, Jason East. Reps Conor Mitchell, Diarmuid o’Dowd-Hill,  Jake Sexton, Niall Gray , Sean Mullin

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