AIL: Kings of the North West

Ballina RFC 0

Sligo RFC 38

Having secured a first ever Connacht domestic league and cup double for the club and hosting the top Irish club team in the Bateman cup semi final, Sligo’s return to All Ireland division 2B action resulted in a comprehensive defeat of neighbours Ballina RFC, in a match that cemented Sligo’s status as rugby kingpins of the northwest.

Sligo put their neighbours to the sword with a clinical display that saw the Yeats men punish their hosts by crossing the whitewash six times without reply.

With Ballina’s newly developed pitch unavailable due to over use, the match was moved to the traditional home of Ballina’s riverside pitch, a pitch which has witnessed many fine battles between two great clubs, but in this encounter Sligo were superior in all facets of play.

On a soft track Ballina made the most of the early exchanges with Luke Sweeney and Calum Quinn taking the fight to their visitors but Sligo were prepared for the early onslaught and defensive work from Daire Byrne, Mark Butler, Enda Gavin and Philip Carter ensured the early pressure was repelled with no reward to the home side. 

Sligos excellent defensive pressure and patience swung the pendulum to the Yeats county men and with 10 minutes gone the first blow was struck. A sweeping left to right move on the Ballina 22 gave Calum Goddard a sniff of the line and in typical fashion the Sligo speedster left the defence for dead and touched down in the right corner. 

Ballina gamely tried to redress the early setback but Sligo were in determined mode and a second try was manufactured midway through the first half. Sligo’s Outhalf, Euan Brown, collected on the 22 and brilliantly stepped inside the onrushing defence before racing to the line to touch down under the posts. The outhalf chipped over the conversion and Sligo were ahead by 12.

Sligo were purring now and continued to go about their business with ruthless efficiency. Shane Boyle and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill were causing havoc at the Ballina lineout, Sligo’s front row of Tom Gormely, Shane O’Hehir and Kuba Wojtkowicz were dominating the home scrum and youngster Donnacha Byrne was carrying powerfully to keep his side on the front foot. 

Having scored on the 10th and 20th minute Sligo kept to script and picked up their third of the day with half an hour on the clock. Wojtkowicz collected on the 22 and powered his way through the despairing home defence to touch down under the posts. Brown converted to move Sligo’s total to 19.

Sligo continued to press and looked likely to pick up the four try bonus point with a series of scrum penalties on the Ballina 5 metre line just before the interval. Despite Sligo’s dominance, and the issuance of yellow card to the home team for repeated infringements, Ballina survived the onslaught and the teams went into halftime with Sligo 19-0 ahead.

Following the resumption any hope of a Ballina resurrection was completely obliterated with Sligo’s bonus point try. 

Fine work from Jason East and Matthew Davey halted a Ballina attack on the Sligo 22. Shane O’Hehir collected on the edge at the 10 metre line and raced into the Ballina half before releasing the excellent Ryan Feehily who outpaced the cover defence and touched down in the right corner.

Sligo continued to play at an intensity that the home team were unable to live with. Matthew Earley, Brian West, James O’Hehir and Brendan Cunningham were all added to the mix and all fitted in seamlessly.

The large travelling support were on cloud nine and their team continued to deliver. Try number 5 arrived on the hour with Goddard repeating his effort from the first half. Goddard was again involved with the final try of the day when linking with Brown who capped a super performance with his second of the day to close out the scoring on an excellent day for Sligo RFC. 

Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be delighted with the manner their charges ruthlessly picked their hosts apart and will be looking to use the performance as a template for further success through the second half of the AIL season.

Sligo now take a well deserved break before hosting Malahide RFC on January 25th. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hamilton Park.

Sligo. Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Daire Byrne, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Tom Gormely, Shane O’Hehir, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Rob Holian, Shane Boyle, Donnacha Byrne, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Jason East. Reps: Matthew Earley, Matthew Davey, James O’Hehir, Brian West, Brendan Cunningham.

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