Greystones RFC 19
Sligo RFC 20
Sligo produced the best performance of their Energia AIL 2B campaign to date to seal victory by the narrowest of margins over a previously unbeaten table topping Greystones outfit at Dr Hickey Park on Saturday.
Sligo used every ounce of energy, pride and bravery to overcome a strong home outfit and take the points in a match that will live long in the memories of the travelling Sligo faithful.
Playing into the slight breeze Sligo started the match in impressive fashion. The kick off contest resulted in Sligo possession and the visitors set up camp in the Greystones 22.
The opening score arrived with 8 minutes on the clock. A left to right move across the 22 culminated in a deft Euan Brown grubber kick behind the cover defence and Calum Goddard won the race to touchdown in the right corner.
The home side responded and a midfield break gave a foothold in the Sligo 22. Sligo looked to have snuffed out the immediate danger but the referee determined that the defensive effort was illegal, and despite it being the first penalty conceded by the visitors, Mark Butler was shown the yellow card and Sligo were down to 14.
Greystones made the most of the numerical advantage and a series of attacks on the Sligo line eventually resulted in full back Mark Meyler racing in on the the left. Outhalf Killian Marmion gave the home side the lead with the extras.
The Wicklow men extended the lead to 12-5 before the interval with a sniping score from scrum half Alex Ryan following a sustained period of pressure.
Following the resumption Sligo upped the ante and took the fight to their hosts. Benroi Sala, Shane O’Hehir and Tom Gormely were powerful at the scrum and in the loose with Gormely in particular tackling everything that moved. Ciaran Cassidy and Rob Holian were bringing physicality to every collision and the back row of Sean Wynne, Shane Boyle and Matt Davey we’re putting in a tremendous shift.
10 minutes into the half Sligo’s pressure began to tell and Greystones’ influential Outhalf, Marmion, was sent to the bin following a series of indiscretions. It was Sligo’s time to turn the screw and within 2 minutes the Sligo pack were driving over the line with Gormely on hand to touch down. Brown converted and the sides were level.
Sligo were now in the ascendancy and worked hard to retake the lead. Brown and Butler were pinning Greystones back with some fine tactical kicking. Brendan Cunningham was providing fast ball from the base and Ryan Feehily was as always a bundle of energy. The back three of Goddard, Philip Carter and Enda Gavin we’re linking well and counter attacking with purpose. Replacements Brian West, Jason East, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill and Matthew Earley all added to the cause when introduced.
The lead was restored when the Sligo industry was rewarded on the hour mark with a third try. Ciaran Cassidy was on hand to touch down as the forwards again drove over the line to move the score to 12-17.
Further pressure earned Sligo a penalty on the 10 meter line and Brown bisected the uprights to push the total to 20.
The home team showed their pedigree by fighting back to within a point with a converted try on the 75th minute setting up a grandstand finish.
As time ticked down, Greystones threw everything at the visitors, but Sligo held their discipline and the defensive line remained intact. Marmion attempted a drop goal with the final kick but Feehily’s line speed proved too much of a distraction and the ball drifted wide. The long whistle sounded and Sligo were celebrating.
Next Saturday Sligo’s attention turns to the Connacht Senior Cup when they lock horns with Galwegians. The semi-final kicks off at Crowley Park at 2pm.
Sligo: Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Benroi Sala, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Shane Boyle, Sean Wynne, Matthew Davey, Reps: Matthew Early, Jason East, Brian West, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Daire Byrne.