Sligo RFC 26
Blackrock RFC 27
Despite outscoring their illustrious visitors by four try’s to three Sligo fell to an agonising defeat by the narrowest of margins in a thrilling Energia AIL2B encounter at Strandhill on Saturday.
Going into the closing moments Sligo were ahead by six points, but an injury time converted try snatched victory for the visitors by the smallest margin and broke the hearts of the Sligo faithful.
On a crisp Strandhill afternoon Blackrock kicked off playing towards the Knocknarea end. Shane Boyle was illegally tackled in the air and Sligo were awarded a penalty. Euan Brown despatched the kick to touch and Sligo set up camp in the ‘Rock 22.
Sligo’s early initiative was rewarded with an excellent score with six minutes on the clock. A planned backline move, from a scrum on the 22, gave Brown the opportunity to slip through a gap in the visiting defence. Brown linked with Enda Gavin and the full back timed his pass to allow Winger Calum Goddard the space to use his blistering pace to race in at the right corner. Browns difficult conversion attempt drifted across the posts.
Blackrock looked to respond and were rewarded with a penalty, converted from outside the Sligo 22.
Sligo reset and again worked their way into the ‘Rock half of the field. An excellently timed Ryan Feehily pass coupled with an excellent line from Mark Butler opened up the visiting defence and Butler touched down under the posts. Brown converted to push Sligo nine points ahead at the interval.
Following the resumption it was Blackrock that took the early initiative.
Indiscipline from the home team resulted in a second penalty score for the visitors before a converted try put ‘Rock ahead by a single point.
Sligo again showed their mettle and worked their way back into the lead when Rob Holian crashed over following a sustained period of pressure on the Blackrock line. Brown converted to push Sligo ahead by six.
The game continued to ebb and flow and Blackrock wrestled back the lead with 15 minutes remaining following a try from a five metre mauled lineout.
With the game on a knife edge every inch of ground was being fought for tooth and nail. The home victory looked to have been sealed with a Ciaran Cassidy try, converted by Brown, with eight minutes remaining but the concession of a series of late penalty’s gave Blackrock the opportunity to close the gap with a third try and snatch the win with a final kick conversion.
Sligo had heroes all over the park. Mark Keegan, Tom Gormely and Shane O’Hehir battled intensely in the tight and replacements Ross O’Boyle, James O’Hehir and Matthew Earley added to the cause when introduced. Brian West and Matt Davey covered every inch of ground through the entire match. Brendan Cunningham’s reputation at scrum half continues to grow and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill continued his return to form with more valuable game time. Philip Carter was his usual ball of energy and a thorn in the visitors side in both attack and defence.
Despite the loss, Sligo picked up 2 valuable league points with the losing and four try bonus points, but Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be disappointed that the five points didn’t come to Sligo
Sligo’s AIL2B campaign continues with a trip to Malahide next Saturday. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Estuary Road.
Sligo: Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Shane Boyle, Brian West, Matt Davey. Reps Ross O’Boyle, Matthew Earley, James O’Hehir, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Daire Byrne.