Sligo RFC 15
Malahide RFC 16
The final kick of a highly intensive encounter resulted in heartbreak for Sligo as Malahide snatched the victory by the smallest margin in the round 11 AIL 2B encounter played at Strandhill on Saturday.
Having led the match going into injury time, Sligo conceded an unfortunate penalty on the left hand side outside of the 22, and Malahide outhalf Shane O’Brien held his nerve to seal the victory for the visitors.
With Sligo playing towards the airport end for the first half, the visitors kicked off. Shane Boyle collected and Sligo immediately looked to test the Malahide defence.
Sligo’s early intent reaped a reward with an excellently struck Euan Brown penalty to open the scoring with 4 minutes on the clock.
Sligo continued to press and looked to keep the visitors pinned back in their own half but a breakaway by Irish Sevens international Mick Mc Grath resulted in a try for the visitors and a two point advantage.
Sligo put the setback behind them and again set up camp in Malahide territory but against the run of play, a fortuitous turnover resulted in a length of field play which, despite an excellent Phillip Carter cover tackle, resulted in a second try for the visitors.
Sligo again responded. Tom Gormley, Kuba Wojtkowicz and Ciaran Cassidy were punching holes and Shane O’Hehir was proving a handful with some excellent carries.
The Sligo pressure finally told when Malahide pulled down a Sligo scrum marching towards the try line and the referee awarded a penalty try which levelled the score.
Sligo were in full flow and were taking control in most areas. The back row of Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, Matt Davey and Jason East we’re working well to subdue the Malahide loose forwards and centres Mark Butler and Daire Byrne were on top in attack and defence. Ryan Feehily, as always, was a handful from the base and Calum Goddard was a threat whenever the ball came to the right wing. Enda Gavin was rock solid at full back.
Just before the interval Sligo struck again. A pinpoint cross kick from Brown was collected by Carter on the left, just inside his own half, and the winger outpaced the cover to touch down in the corner and give Sligo the half time lead 15-10.
Following the resumption, the match continued with the same intensity with both sides throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at each other. Sligo introduced Brian West, Matthew Earley and James O’Hehir to the play and all made telling contributions but despite some excellent attacking play the try lines were not to be breached again.
Malahide closed the gap to two with a penalty from the 10 metre line with five minutes remaining before Sligo hearts were broken with the final act of an excellent encounter.
Sligo now sit in sixth position in AIL division 2B, but with a run of form are well capable of reaching the play off positions with seven matches remaining.
The AIL now takes a two week break due to the six nations, before Sligo travel to the capital to lock horns with Blackrock RFC.
Ironically, In a similar scenario, Blackrock snatched victory with a last gasp penalty when visiting Sligo in November. So Sligo won’t need any motivation to redress the balance with a win in Dublin.
Sligo. Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Daire Byrne, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Tom Gormely, Shane O’Hehir, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ciaran Cassidy, Shane Boyle, Matt Davey, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Jason East. Reps: Matthew Earley, James O’Hehir, Brian West, Niall Gray, Brendan Cunningham.