AIL 2B: Sligo win in Magherafelt

Rainey Old Boys – Sligo RFC 16

Sligo picked up their sixth win of their division 2B All Ireland League campaign with an excellently crafted performance against a strong, well drilled, Rainey unit at Hatrick Park on Saturday. Sligo’s win keeps them in the coveted top four position with five games to play in the regular season.

With Rainey having turned over Sligo in the reverse fixture at Hamilton Park, the Yeats men travelled knowing that a big effort would be required to overcome their hosts and, to the delight of coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East, their charges stepped up and produced the intensity and desire required to seal the victory.

Sligo’s Calum Goddard about to catch a pinpoint crossfield kick, before speeding down the wing to cross the try line

With conditions ideal for open rugby, Sligo kicked off and an excellent Philip Carter chase put pressure on the Rainey fielders culminating in early possession for Sligo.

The visitors attacked the Rainey line but were ultimately held up and the concession of a penalty allowed Rainey to clear their lines.

Sligo defended well and won back possession with a choke tackle on the halfway. From the subsequent scrum Ryan Feehily and Calum Goddard worked their way down the right hand side before being halted in the 22. The ball was moved left across the pitch before play was illegally halted by a Rainey slap down resulting in a Sligo penalty and a home team sin-binning. Euan Brown stepped up and bisected the posts with a super effort to open his and Sligo’s account.

With eight minutes gone Sligo were awarded a penalty deep in their own half following a great catch from a high ball by Carter. Brown despatched the kick to touch outside the home 22. Shane O’Hehir found Rob Holian at the lineout and the ball was moved quickly to Brown. The outhalf launched a massive crossfield kick which Goddard excellently fielded before dancing around the covering full back and racing in for the only try of the game. Brown converted and Sligo were up by ten.

Rainey were soon back to the full complement and showed what they are capable of when they pressurised Sligo into conceding a penalty on twenty minutes to open their own account with a fine effort from full back Scott McClean.

Sligo’s Mata Fifita powers through the Rainey tackles

Both sides looked to add to their tally but were unable to break each other’s well organised defence. A five minute period of huge sustained pressure by the locals just before the interval looked to surely yield a try, but to a man the Sligo defence threw their bodies on the line and the attack was repelled to the delight of the substantial travelling support.

It was much the same following the resumption with both sides throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at each other but wholly committed defending ensured that the try-lines remained intact.

The intensity grew as the match progressed and another McLean penalty for the home side was cancelled out by another Brown effort with both kickers demonstrating super proficiency with the placed ball.

McClean added two more penalties with excellent kicks on fifty and fifty five minutes to bring his team within one point but Brown again stepped up on sixty five minutes to again push the Sligo lead out to four where it would stay until the final whistle.

Mark Butler and Ryan Feehily look on as it takes 3 Rainey players to take down Mata Fifita

This was a superbly entertaining outing with both teams showing why they are at the upper end of the table. The Sligo scrum was strong with Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell anchoring. Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey all carried notably. Sean Wynne tackled himself to a standstill and the returning Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill gave Sligo an extra edge. Centres Mark butler and Mata Fifita brought the fight to a strong Rainey pairing. Full-back Niall Gray was assured as a last line of defence and Jack Keegan slotted in seamlessly when called upon.

Next Saturday Sligo host Greystones RFC. Sligo uncharacteristically suffered their heaviest defeat of the season in the reverse fixture and will be keen to make amends when the Wicklow based outfit come to Strandhill. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hamilton Park.

Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps: Conor Mitchell, Jason East, Brendan Cunningham, Enda Gavin, Jack Keegan

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