Corinthians RFC 17
Sligo RFC 19
Sligo made it two in a row in their ALL Ireland League campaign with a superbly crafted 2 point win over a physical Corinthians outfit in Galway on Saturday. Sligo’s defence and discipline were the two pillars of a game plan that was executed superbly by a wholly committed Sligo team.
Playing into the teeth of a ferocious wind Sligo kicked off and had to withstand an immediate barrage from a fired up local outfit intent on bringing their big ball carriers into the fray as often as possible. The Sligo defence stood strong however, with Mark Butler, Enda Gavin and Calum Goddard all putting in bone shuddering tackles in the early stages. Prop forward Tom Gormaley threw himself into tackles like man possessed despite carrying a hamstring injury and one hit from powerhouse Mata Fifita must have left his opposite number wondering what day of the week it was.
Inevitably, with such a wind advantage, the local were going to score at some stage in the first half, and Corinthians picked up trys on the half hour and just prior to the interval to move into a 10 point lead.
Sligo coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East rallied the troops at half time , impressing on them the importance of keeping faith with the system and to continue with the herculean effort being displayed.
Following the resumption the excellent work rate began to pay off as Sligo began to dominate in the scrum and make inroads into ‘blue’ territory. With 50 minutes on the clock Sligo struck. A scrum on the half way line on the right hand side was wheeled towards touch. Scrum Half Ryan Feehily saw his chance and made a searing break down the blind side before being hauled down in the 22. Sligo recycled quickly and good hands from Butler , Gavin and Jack Keegan gave Philip Carter the opportunity to finish on the left. Keegan put over an excellent conversion and Sligo were within 3!
Sligo continued to press, with the scrum causing the locals all sorts of problems and the defensive line speed continuously forcing errors. Hooker Shane O’Hehir was putting in his best performance in a Sligo shirt this season with second rows Ciaran Cassidy and Rob Holian causing mayhem with powerful carries time after time. The backrow of Matthew Davey, Shane Boyle and Sean Wynne, who was incidentally only making his first start in a Sligo senior jersey, hit everything that moved, setting the tone for the rest of the team.
Keegan brought the scores level with another well struck penalty on 55 minutes, and proved his invaluable worth by putting his side into the lead with another excellent effort on 60 mins to take the lead.
Sligo were now in full flow and a sustained period of pressure in the Corinthians 22 resulted in Butler slotting over a sweetly struck drop goal to extend the lead for his side. Corinthians tried to respond but Sligo were not taking a backward step.
The intensity spilled over with 10 minutes remaining with a good old fashioned dust up erupting with all 30 players involved. To the disbelief of the Sligo faithful when all had calmed down the referee awarded a penalty to Corinthians and sent two Sligo players and only one local to the sin bin.
With Sligo down two forwards Corinthians sensed an opportunity and elected to take the scrum. Sligo, however, were not to be broken and a huge effort from Conor Mitchell and Kuba Wojtkowicz forced a penalty and Keegan made no mistake with the kick.
Corinthians made the most of the numerical advantage with a try in the dying moments but it was too late for a comeback and come the long whistle there were jubilant scenes from the travelling supporters.
The much needed win moves Sligo up to 6th in UBL div 2B table with one more fixture before the Christmas break.
Next Saturday sees Belfast Harlequins come to Strandhill with an earlier kick off time of 2pm.
Sligo Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Mata Ffitia, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily (Co Capt.) Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormaley, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Matt Davey, Sean Wynne, Shane Boyle. Reps: Ross O’Boyle, Conor Mitchell, Jack Sexton, Niall Gray, Brendan Cunningham