Sligo RFC 24
Belfast Harlequins RFC 14
Sligo rounded off their competitive program for 2018 with a well worked win, earning four precious AIL league points, over Belfast Harlequins at Strandhill on Saturday.
The win moves Sligo into fifth place in Division 2B as the League takes a halftime break until the resumption on January 19th.
With an earlier kick off of 2pm due to the shorter day and Hamilton park being buffeted by severe gusts, Harlequins kicked off playing towards the airport with the aid of the elements.
The visitors enjoyed much of the early possession but Sligo’s defensive line was ferocious to the point that ‘Quins were forced back in to their own 22 and conceded an early penalty.
Jack Keegan popped the kick over the bar to open his and Sligo’s account.
The visitors responded with their own penalty on 12 minutes and made use of the wind to take the lead with another well struck effort on the fifteen minute mark.
Sligo restarted and regained possession with a super take from Philip Carter giving his team the chance to work their way into the visitors 22.
Kuba Wojtkowicz , Ciaran Cassidy and Rob Holian carried strongly and bit by bit Sligo forced their way closer to the try line.
The sustained pressure eventually paid off and Sligo were awarded a penalty five yards from the line.
The forwards smelled blood and the decided to go for the maximum reward by opting for the scrum.
Conor Mitchell put on the pressure and Sligo shunted towards the line but ‘Quins infringed and Sligo opted to scrum again.
Quins infringed again to prevent the pushover and when Sligo once again opted for the scrum it looked like a penalty try was the likely outcome for Sligo’s dominance.
Ryan Feehily had other ideas and with the visiting back row committed to the scrum , Feehily picked and darted to the left to touch down at the post.
Keegan converted and Sligo were back in front.
Harlequins moved back to within a single point with another well struck penalty before taking the lead with a try out wide on the left to put the half time score at 10-14.
For the second time in two weeks Sligo were behind at the interval and were turning with the breeze at their backs and once again Head Coach Paddy Pearson and Player Coach Jason East impressed on their charges that the excellent work rate would reap the deserved reward.
With the wind gusting fiercely Sligo upped the intensity and Mark Butler took full advantage with some excellent kicking from hand, coupled with great chase play from Calum Goddard and Enda Gavin, to position Sligo in the ‘Quins danger zone.
Sligo put on the pressure with some excellent carries and again the visitors were forced into the concession of a penalty close to the line.
Once again the scrum was called and when Shane O’Hehir struck the put-in, Sligo shunted towards the line. With Shane Boyle in full control at the base, the inevitable infringement was forced and this time the referee went to the posts to award the penalty try.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the sky went black and a deluge was dumped on Hamilton park but this did not deter Sligo, who despite the horrendous conditions, continued to play with purpose.
Sean Wynne secured a lineout on the 22 and the ball was move midfield. Mata Fifita carried strongly and the ruck was set up in front of the posts. The ball was quickly recycled and Matt Davey took an excellent line to burst through the cover and touch down on the right.
Keegan’s conversion was the final score of the game and when the ref blew for full time the Sligo faithful celebrated a well deserved victory.
Although Sligo will be out of competitive action until the new year , the annual St Stephens day match will be an opportunity for players to ‘work off’ the Christmas dinner.
The match kicks off at 2 pm on the 26th and returning and local players and friends are welcome to Hamilton park for some fun rugby and hospitality in the club house afterwards.
Sligo Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily (co–captain), Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir (co–captain), Conor Mitchell, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Jason East, Matt Davey, Shane Boyle. Reps Sean Wynne, Ross O’Boyle, Sean Mullin, Jake Sexton, Niall Gray.